It isn’t hard to notice how the highly competitive consumer industry nowadays leaves no stones unturned in its pursuit of attaining maximum customer satisfaction. I can’t help but draw an unlikely analogy between the consumer industry and the healthcare space. Although they would probably fit like chalk and cheese if we were ever to draw an actual comparison, but the one common thing that got me thinking was how differently they treat the receivers of their services, i.e., customers and patients respectively.
Consumer experience – where healthcare meets other industries
Take this for example. Imagine you live somewhere around Sacramento and visit Target to get your groceries. You pick what you need, empty your cart on the counter, and the cashier hands you the bill. You pay the amount, and head home. Now,
- Did the cashier tell you about some ongoing offer at Target that could get you more off of your purchase?
- Did the cashier suggest you items that you could possibly need, such as a bag?
- After you reached home, did you receive mails or text messages informing you about new offers at Target?
Now, wind back to the last time you went to a hospital.
- Did your physician, or your health coach ask about your living conditions, or your work, or your eating habits?
- Did your provider offer some suggestive measures such as preventive screenings or changing your lifestyle?
- How many times did you receive a follow-up call or any notification about missed or upcoming visits?
In all honesty, the answers to these questions for healthcare won’t all be ‘yes.’ Healthcare system remains largely transactional in nature- you pay for the service, you head home, and that’s it. The care management and the interaction between a physician and a patient within a hospital alone is limited and time-bound, let alone beyond the hospital.
I am fortunate to have known physicians who regularly work for 12 hours a day and are dedicated to quality care, yet, they find it impossible to genuinely interact with their patients. With so many administrative tasks, lack of complete information, and with so little time on hands, providers are unable to stay in touch with all of their patients. There can be a number of innovations and solutions that may require significant investment but translate to little success. Truth be told, more often than not, many do not even know the actual problems, leave alone tackling them.
When did patient-physician interaction became a task?
Healthcare sector is one of the most demanding and economically-driven sector in the US. It can’t be remodeled overnight. It probably can’t even be done in a year. We can, however, begin with acknowledging the disparities in our system.
Transformation to value-based systems could well be the first step in this direction. And to lead proper change management, the leadership need to make sure that everyone is onboard with that change. Everything comes down to the patient experience, and therefore it is necessary to involve them as much as possible in their care too. However, to effectively enable shared decision-making, the care teams first need to nurture the relationships with their patients.
The patients should trust their clinicians completely regarding the procedures involved in their treatment. For instance, patients shouldn’t have doubts about the availability of their PCPs when they need them. In turn, healthcare organizations should properly evaluate and reallocate the resources available to make sure that the physicians have adequate time for each of their patients.
Patient-physician interaction: where most investments of healthcare should go
The aim of healthcare as a service should be to keep the patients at the center of the entire procedure. A healthy one-on-one relationship between the physician and the patient is of prime importance for truly delivering patient-centered care. Such an interaction shouldn’t be confined merely within the four walls of the hospital. Instead, the care teams should assure that the patients leave on a good note once their care journey ends. Additionally, if the problem reoccurs, the care teams should be able to reach out to the patient with maximum throughput so as to provide a meaningful care experience.
Technological investments, too, are critical to facilitate a better patient-physician interaction. If the patients are connected with their care teams despite geographic boundaries, and are able to effortlessly communicate with their care teams, clinical outcomes can be enhanced manifold.
One common example is how the organizations use the data that their systems hold- while advanced analytics can pay rich dividends, ineffective data management can potentially result in soaring costs and limited efficiency despite great efforts. For instance, if the care teams have a holistic record of patients at hand, they can follow-up on their patients based on predictive as well as prescriptive analysis.
The world where physicians are a part of patient-centric care and not disease-centric continuum
A critical factor to keep in mind is to make sure that such investments should make sense to the organization in the years to come. Short-sightedness in implementing large-scale strategies could result in half-baked success. Ultimately, the objective is to improve the clinical outcomes and therefore, a constructive partnership among the care teams, patients, and leadership is required.
Healthcare is a fast-paced sector and everything from its conceptualization and pricing to the way care is delivered is under the lens. Not because the cost of care is rising, but because it is one the few sectors directly entrusted with making people healthy. The mere EHR adoption is behind us and is being replaced by analytical, data-driven strategies. And now is the right time to bring the potential of data to the forefront and put together the building blocks for a transparent and forward-focused healthcare.
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