Article written by Tracy Picon originally appeared on Enterprise.Microsoft.com on March 24, 2017.
With few exceptions, a trip to the hospital isn’t much fun for most people. Whether it’s a routine health screening, minor outpatient procedure, or a more intensive in-patient treatment plan, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone eagerly awaiting their next trip to the hospital.
Even still, the majority of today’s healthcare experiences are elective–patients choose which hospital to go to, when services will be rendered, and which doctor they’d like to treat them. Much like patrons of restaurants, hotels, and other service-oriented establishments, healthcare patients today view themselves as “customers” and expect similar levels of selection and transparency in their hospital as they would in a local eatery.
In response, hospitals and health systems are making concerted efforts to deliver a patient-centric business model that caters to patients more as discerning consumers than in the past. A significant part of those efforts involves leveraging technology–the right systems and solutions–to improve patient outcomes, strengthen the bottom line, and cultivate long-term relationships between patients and providers to increase hospital brand loyalty.
But if you’re a hospital administrator wanting to accelerate creation of your patient-centric care model, where do you start?
Managing the patient journey
The patient journey–a patient’s end-to-end experience with a care provider–can reasonably be broken down into pre-treatment, during treatment, and post-treatment phases. The best patient-centered operations employ intuitive, integrated systems to manage patient expectations and their experience, while empowering providers to more efficiently manage increasing workloads by streamlining records access and automating previously labor-intensive reporting.
Like most buying decisions, the pre-treatment phase of the patient journey sets the stage for a patient’s entire interaction and experience with a medical facility and its staff. Just as a traveler might research multiple hotels before booking a room, medical consumers also want to feel like they have options and access to all the information they’ll need to make the best possible choice(s) for themselves.
In this stage, it’s imperative for hospitals and providers to effectively communicate with prospective patients, educating them about the facility’s superior care and reputation for excellence, overviewing the staff’s qualifications and experience in various disciplines, and highlighting specialty areas of care relevant to the patient’s needs.
While many facilities rely on their website’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) to provide a bulk of the general information prospective patients might need, enterprising hospitals and providers are increasingly turning to patient portals for better engagement, education, and nurturing. In fact, according to a CDW Healthcare poll, nearly 75% of hospital patients have subscribed to a patient portal to communicate with their healthcare provider more often or access their own healthcare information online.
Patient portals connect with other technologies to provide secure and reliable access to reference materials for patients to research their condition and treatment and learn more about the team providing their care. Patients are embracing the idea that more frequent communication with their provider using digital technologies can lead to improved health and better healthcare, with nearly 65% of participants in the CDW poll saying they’d provide personal, real-time healthcare information to their provider if given the chance.
At the same time, the portals deliver value to providers as well, offering a single location to track a patient’s history from within the health system or to access records from other providers, assuming patient authorization. Portals can help providers create a 360-degree view of a patient’s personal journey– previous specialty visits, lab results, prescription refill history, and even a patient’s care plan compliance–to better coordinate interactions and patient education. Some systems include different types of messaging systems to coordinate with other providers (referral communication) for a seamless patient intake.
Quality patient care—transparency, timely testing, and a fully-informed treatment team–is essential to a good patient experience. Providers will still need to produce immediate pre- and post-care information for patients to help ensure they’re committed to their decision and fully informed of what they can expect from the care experience.
More importantly, coordinating resources–staff, supplies, electronic medical records–with technologies like CRM solutions and productivity tools can simplify care preparation by digitally aligning resources and keeping providers and patients completely connected throughout the experience.
Perhaps the greatest area of opportunity for improving patient experiences and building long-term brand and hospital loyalty lies in the post-care communication, education, and coordination.
A patient-centric model uses technology to create greater transparency among providers and facilitate better, more direct communication and ongoing education with patients. When properly implemented, technology can help make more manageable the sometimes overwhelming amount of information available to patients, providing an opportunity to review physician instructions or advice at their pace, on their own time. Meanwhile, these technologies should also alleviate the silo effect and encourage closer ongoing collaboration between the patient and their provider after they’ve left the facility by:
- Automating appointment and follow-up care reminders.
- Coordinating care with other provider groups (surgeons, rehab specialists, etc.).
- Managing prescription education and refills.
- Facilitating post-care education and establishing post-care journey.
As hospitals and health systems continue moving toward value-based care models, technology will play an increasingly important role in helping to create a stronger patient-provider bond, improving patient outcomes, and solidifying a hospital’s business operations. With the right solutions, providers can empower patients and their care providers to work more collaboratively in planning each of the care stages, freeing providers to spend more time on the human element of care by educating, engaging, and treating their patients instead of trying to juggle time-intensive administrative tasks.
Contact us today to learn more about how Microsoft and its partners are digitally transforming healthcare organizations’ personalized care for patients.