by Larry Mead, Kate Kompelien and Kurt Schroeder
COVID-19 accelerated the transformation that was already changing the face of the healthcare industry. Leading healthcare organizations quickly pivoted to best serve their patients, while laggards fell behind – suffering patient disengagement, unaddressed health complications, and lost revenue. Currently, healthcare is entering the patient experience economy, where patients expect seamless, personalized, on-demand experiences whenever and wherever they choose to engage with their healthcare provider or payer.
Most organizations recognize that their success in the patient experience economy relies on satisfying their patients’ needs and preferences, but what’s less often understood is exactly how widely preferences can differ across demographics. Healthcare organizations must work hard to gain a deeper understanding of their patients’ demographics, needs, preferences, and behaviors to best serve them in the patient experience economy. There is no single patient profile - gaining a deeper understanding of patients and building distinct persona groups or segments is crucial to designing hyper-personalized, meaningful experiences.
Our 2021 Omnichannel Healthcare Report revealed just how important it is for healthcare organizations to segment, understand, and support their customers’ needs and preferences. It is clear that there are significant generational differences in preferences for care and interactions with healthcare providers.
Healthcare Needs and Settings by Generation
Our findings revealed that healthcare needs varied significantly by generation. For example, Baby Boomers are more likely to seek primary and specialty disease care, while Millennials are more often in need of overall wellness, behavioral, and urgent care.
Understanding these needs is key to meeting them, but it’s not just about care needs – we also found clear differences in patients’ preferred settings for their care. Our findings reinforce that an omnichannel approach will be key to serving patients across generations going forward.
For example, we found that Baby Boomers preferred meeting face-to-face or speaking on the phone with their providers – they want to connect with a human being, preferably someone they’ve known for years. This means traditional channels of communication will be essential for connecting with older generations.
Meanwhile, Millennials and Gen Z were more open to care options most convenient for their busy lifestyles, including telehealth, urgent care, retail, and at-home care.
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What Healthcare Organizations Can Conclude from the Findings
So, what is all this research telling us about why creating patient personas is so important to the patient experience? In a word, it’s about developing empathy.
Personas put a human face on business decisions, giving organizations a sense of how their customers think, feel, and act – which in turn gives you as an organization, a sense of how to engage with them.
Empathy and understanding are essential in any business, but in healthcare, where patients are already vulnerable, it’s indispensable. Meeting patients where they are and catering to their preferences will facilitate better, more memorable interactions.
How Healthcare Providers and Payers Can Better Understand Their Patients and Members
It’s clear from our research that deepening your understanding of your audience and creating personas is key to delivering exceptional experience. But how can you go about it?
Understanding Your Patients and Championing Change
Start by creating a closed loop to understand what and how your patients think of you. Gather quantitative, qualitative, and verbatim customer impressions across multiple channels. Conduct rigorous Voice of the Customer research. Talk directly with patients, check in with focus groups, and initiate innovative, extensive customer experience research.
Next, designate one executive to be your champion. This person will need to be a strong leader who takes ownership of your customer experience strategy. In many organizations, this role is held by the Patient Experience Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Nursing Officer, or Chief Marketing Officer. You may need to create a new position or seek an external partner to lead the change and help you gain buy-in across your organization.
Leveraging Data to Build Personas
Creating customer personas isn’t as easy or quick as it used to be. Traditional persona building meant developing four to five key personas, but now organizations can identify hundreds. No two patients are alike. While segmenting by age group or gender is sometimes the best you can do, ideally, you’ll want to get as close to 1:1 personalization as possible.
You must understand and properly utilize patient data in order to better personalize your patients’ experiences. Layering in the right technology, processes, and tools will help you gather the data you need and analyze it effectively.
Keep in mind, though, that data does not always tell the same story as an interview, so make sure you’re incorporating both data and interactions to get the full picture.
One size does not fit all, but with hundreds of patients to personalize for, you’ll need to leverage technology to help. The ultimate power of AI is to spot trends and reason over the data to make it actionable. These tools accelerate the creation of unique segments for your healthcare consumers and can do in hours what would otherwise take months or even years.
The Philosophical Adjustment
Arguably the most important thing you can do to address the wide range of patient needs in Healthcare 3.0 is to change your mindset philosophically. In order to create differentiating patient experiences, healthcare leaders need to accept and embrace its importance to their overall business strategy. Everyone in your organization needs to have strategic goals and prioritize the patient experience.
At Avtex, we’re deeply committed to helping healthcare organizations better understand their patients, and design and orchestrate exceptional patient experiences. If you’re looking for ways to get more out of your data, build a stronger technology ecosystem, or improve your end-to-end experience, we’re here to help.