Healthcare is arguably one of the biggest sectors in the US and drives a significant chunk of the nation’s economy. However, I still refrain from comparing healthcare with other industries, or for that matter, even referring to it as an “industry.” Even if it were to be modeled as a typical consumer-industry, it’d have been nothing like other business corporations and LLCs of the world. To begin with, healthcare is far more complex and huge than most sectors and requires high operational efficiency and accuracy. Imagine more than 5,500 hospitals working day and night with little or no margin for error. It surely means something.
This stated, one thing that we can learn from other sectors is consumer-centricity. Healthcare is arguably the only sector where various “consumers” pay the “professionals” to be bluntly told to do or no do something. Make no mistakes, it is not because providers want to function that way. Rather, they do not have the “luxury” to function differently. They lack strategies, resources, and contextual information to think otherwise.
Patient-centricity and where does it start?
Innovation, optimization, and technology have become the latest jargons to flood healthcare, and health IT in particular. While it is indeed important to define and address these terms, organizations need changes at the grassroots level to make the care delivery system truly patient-centric.
Any organization aiming at making the care experience more holistic for its patients needs to begin with evaluating its mission and approach. They need to analyze if their visions and missions align with the changing dynamics of care delivery, and how can they better understand the needs of their patients.
From “informed” to “involved” patients
Practically, patient-centricity means considering patients as key stakeholders in their care journeys. This begins with ensuring that patients remain updated about their health at all times. But as we move from the age of information to age of intelligence, we cannot afford to stop merely at informing patients about their health conditions and then take decisions on their behalf.
Organizations need to educate their patients and make them take more informed and justified decisions. And educating patients takes time since it involves assisting and supporting them at each step and providing them with the resources they need. A provider, for instance, needs to go beyond merely telling patients that they need to lose weight. Rather, they should come up with videos and curated content on how’s and why’s of losing weight, physical exercises that would work best for them, among other things. Patients need coaching, and only then they can truly embark on a journey of shared decision-making.
Pay attention to minute patient preferences
One critical aspect of making care more patient-centric is considering factors that affect their preferences. For example, patients might prefer certain communication channels over other based on their location, age, and even their trust in a particular channel.
In a nation-wide survey, almost 43% of the respondents said that they’d prefer their test results to be communicated over a phone call, while only 18% of them preferred the information to be emailed. Likewise, adults aged 18-24 said that they’d prefer to book an appointment online, while a clear majority of people over the age of 45 stated that they prefer offline methods (calls, SMS, among others). Many patients prefer mobile-apps or websites while searching for a hospital more than looking for them on their desktops, and a step as small as optimizing organization’s website for mobile-devices can do wonders for the overall patient-inflow numbers.
Another thing that healthcare can pick from consumer sectors is their process of feedback. One common example is how a retain or e-commerce sector conduct user surveys. Irrespective of what you buy ㄧ a pack of cookies or a high-end sports car ㄧ the reviews of customers are taken extremely seriously, and they often become the basis of the success or failure of that particular product. Our healthcare system also needs to make the process of patient-feedback a standard process if we genuinely want to develop a culture of continuous improvement.
Make outreach process streamlined
In times when skipped appointments and patient no-shows are costing organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, healthcare leadership urgently need to streamline their patient outreach mechanism. It is frankly unrealistic to assume that an email or mail-box message can ensure zero no-shows. Organizations need to have multi-channel outreach system in place so that they can reach out to their patients via SMS, emails, calls, et al. simultaneously or as per the specific preferences.
Take for instance a scenario where a care coordinator reaches out to 100 patients in a day through phone calls. However, 20 patients do not pick up the call, and therefore he decides to call them again later in the day. Unable to receive a one hundred percent response even then, he finally leaves a mailbox message. Now imagine the life of that care coordinator if this exercise has to be followed each day. There are two facets to this problem:
- Care coordinators get unrealistically burdened and spend their days doing redundant things.
- The efficiency of the process is nowhere close to perfect, or even sufficient.
Entire patient data, those stacks of paper, numerous calls- they mean little if the organization does not get desired outcomes. What organizations need are solutions that can increase their outreach efficiency, and at the same time, reduce the workload on care teams. In fact, leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate the entire process can revolutionize the way care teams go about reaching out to their patients.
One of the reasons to vouch for the above-mentioned technologies is that other sectors have successfully reaped great results through their implementation. Dream of a system where patients are triaged automatically and personalized reminders are sent to each patient just at the right time through their preferred mode(s) of communication. Truth be told, it is not really a dream. Not anymore.
The road ahead
The debates around the role of “human-touch” in healthcare have existed for decades, if not centuries. With the shift to value-based care, the concept of human touch has gained tremendous traction. In the years to come, patient involvement will become the foundation for a successful preventive care system. Equipped with the right technology, we will see patients playing a much more mature role in their care journeys and taking control of their health more often than not.
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Join Dr. Paul Grundy, ‘Godfather’ of Patient-centered Medical Home along with Dr. David Nace, CMO at Innovaccer in our latest webinar, “Key Drivers to Build a World Class Patient-centric Healthcare,” on 25th September, at 10:00 AM PT/12:00 NOON CT.