It may go down as the most infamous Web site launch in history. When HealthCare.gov, the federal healthcare exchange established by the Affordable Care Act, went live Oct. 1, 2013, hapless users were frustrated by long waits, missing information, lack of support and a process that felt overwhelming to navigate.
The kinks have been worked out of HealthCare.gov. But for many patients, healthcare itself can still be plagued with the same problems: long waits, missing information, lack of support, and an overwhelming process.
That will have to change, as fiercer competition from local and national providers and higher patient expectations place a premium on better patient experience. To thrive in the future, healthcare providers will need to become more customer-centric. And to do so, they’ll need to grow more effective at collaboration.
More Competition, More Demands
Two factors are driving the need for greater customer centricity. First, the provider segment of the healthcare industry has become more consolidated, with larger health systems buying up community hospitals. That heightens competition among large health systems, as their territories begin to overlap and they jockey to serve the same patient populations. It does the same for community hospitals that hope to remain independent.
Second, patients have become more demanding. This is part of a broader trend across industries in which customers of all types expect fast access, ease of use, and personalized attention. And for healthcare providers, customers aren’t just patients; they also include influencers such as the patient’s caregivers and support network.
In this hyper-competitive, hyper-demanding environment, customer centricity has become a key differentiator. The hospital that delivers a higher level of customer service can attract new patients and retain existing ones, and ultimately grow its market share. While the provider that fails to do so will increasingly lose patients to competitors who have figured out how to navigate in the new reality.
The Big C?
One of the best ways providers can optimize customer centricity is through more effective collaboration. Why? Because better coordination of services, data, and people will lead to the superior patient experience that will attract and retain customers.
Such collaboration needs to occur at two levels. First is provider to provider. Large hospitals that coordinate care across multiple locations, as well as community hospitals that partner with other providers, need to ensure they’re sharing patient records, treatment data, analytics and, where appropriate, business information that can lead to better customer service and better health outcomes.
The second level of collaboration is provider to patient. Patients have always interacted directly with their healthcare provider. But mere interaction doesn’t rise to the level of collaboration. Everyone who interacts with the patient, including physicians, nurses, medical assistants, and even the receptionist need to view the patient as a collaboration partner in ensuring optimum care and health outcomes.
What’s more, service delivery no longer occurs only face-to-face. Providers have an increasing amount of electronic interaction with patients. That offers opportunities for collaboration through health portals, digital content, social media, mobile apps, and more.
Consolidate and Integrate
An effective way to enhance collaboration is through close integration of the data and systems that support hospital processes. Key targets for such integration include patient data, analytics, and social-media data.
First, as patients move from place to place—from hospital to hospital in a health system, or from hospital to satellite office or partner practice—their medical history and other relevant information should move along with them, seamlessly and in real time. That will accelerate processes, improve customer service, and help ensure optimal treatment.
Second, as providers capture treatment data and apply analytics to uncover trends and responses to treatment options, they need to share the results of their analyses to help improve health outcomes. That will help both clinicians and hospital administrators make the most informed decisions that improve both patient care and customer service.
Finally, as patients post comments on social media about their experiences with the consumption of healthcare, providers have an opportunity to leverage that unstructured data to improve the patient experience. Providers need to capture that social data, apply social-media analytics to understand it, and share the results to better measure patient sentiment and develop prioritized action plans.
Integration of such data and processes isn’t necessarily easy, and it doesn’t come without cost. But an effective way to achieve it is through system simplification and consolidation. Bringing together disparate systems and managing data at a central location can go a long way toward integrating processes and driving the more informed decision making that leads to a better patient experience.
The days when a patient interacted with a single physician are long gone. Now, even for relatively straightforward treatments, patients navigate a maze of specialists, facilities, and processes. It’s not enough for patients to feel loyal to a single doctor; today, they need to feel loyal to your brand and have a consistent brand experience throughout their course of treatment. By improving collaboration with patients and with one another, providers can improve the patient experience and better compete in the marketplace.