The Formula for Successful Patient Engagement
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The Formula for Successful Patient Engagement

Rich Phillips, CTO, Tampa General Hospital
Rich Phillips, CTO, Tampa General Hospital

Rich Phillips, CTO, Tampa General Hospital

Healthcare providers are faced with the perfect storm of challenges. Regulatory upheaval, clinical advancement, and rising costs provide just a few of the market forces which conspire to disrupt management in their quest for patient care excellence and bottom line performance. Compounding these circumstances, health systems must contend with increased competition from both traditional and emerging providers, while simultaneously grappling with dramatic changes in technology capabilities and consumer expectations. Managed effectively, these challenges can be converted into opportunities for growing market share and creating memorable patient experiences, all while reducing the cost of customer acquisition and service delivery.

The power of experience and peer referral in healthcare has been measured at 2-4X that of other consumer industries. In spite of this, the healthcare industry has historically invested very little in experience and referral, believing that patients will remain loyal to “the better doctor,” whatever that term means. In fact, recent studies suggest that patients are willing to switch health providers for a better experience or simply for the ability to electronically access their medical record. This reality has enormous implications for an industry which comprises nearly 1/6th of the entire US economy. The resulting math suggests that hundreds of billions of dollars is in play for healthcare providers who effectively leverage technology to streamline service access and improve care experience.

  ​An additional benefit of mobile apps is the ability to shape the patient’s experience through functions such as way-finding, form completion and post-encounter calendar reminders 

Long understood in other consumer markets, progressive healthcare providers increasingly recognize that the only way to affordably create extensible, high-quality delivery capabilities is to digitally-enable customer interaction frameworks. Fortunately, there is a solution model from consumer markets which addresses this need: the combination of data management, process management, rules management, and mobile apps provides the building blocks required to consistently deliver exceptional experiences. In consumer markets, this is known as journey management; in healthcare, it is often called patient pathways. In both cases, the methods are the same, as are the outcomes.

The Building Blocks of Healthcare IT

Double clicking on each of the building blocks, common IT patterns become apparent.

• Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms serve as the data foundation for healthcare marketers to understand their customer base, target specific audiences, measure market opportunity, calculate conversion effectiveness and ultimately, drive return on investment for scarce marketing dollars. Beyond the traditional roles of CRM systems, Customer Evolution believes in utilizing these platforms to serve as the underpinning for all customer interactions spanning web, mobile, email, contact center, and more.

• The synthesis of process management and rules management, married closely to customer data management, offer the true “secret sauce” for generating exceptional experiences. Process management, often in the form of Business Process Management (BPM) engines, ensures a consistent, brand-aligned set of activities are executed in a lifestyle-aware, streamlined manner. Augmented with rules management, processes are dynamically controlled in real-time by sensing customer circumstances (weather, proximity, demographic, etc.) and shaping the experience to customer preferences.

• A rapidly advancing frontier in customer engagement is the mobile device/app. The tidal wave of consumer migration to the mobile channel is illustrated by the fact that over 80 percent of all searches are now done by mobile devices. A powerful complement to this data point is that 70 percent of those searches result in some form of action within one hour of the search. An additional benefit of mobile apps is the ability to shape the patient’s experience through functions such as way-finding, form completion and post-encounter calendar reminders.

With this backdrop in mind, let’s examine the scenario of a typical healthcare experience which is extensible to many forms of patient interaction. Historically, primary care doctors have narrowly framed the “encounter” as the eight minutes on average the doctor spends with the patient in the examination room. While this is an important component, it grossly under-represents the encounter from the patient perspective. From a lifestyle stand-point, the patient’s encounter begins all the way back at “symptom,” and continues through searching for a physician, scheduling an appointment, arranging transportation, locating the building, finding the room, checking in, completing forms and waiting to be seen. This pattern continues into post-visit activities including co-payment, prescription pick up, follow-up visit, and so on, as depicted below.

A New Healthcare Delivery Model

An entirely new healthcare access and delivery model is emerging which brings the earlier mentioned building blocks (data, process, rules, mobile) together for an orchestration of activities prior to, during, and after the encounter. Here are just a few examples of how this can work:

 Appointments can be scheduled with a few button clicks immediately following doctor selection to capture the patient before they explore alternative physicians.

 Consumer-friendly mobile apps can link to phone maps, provide an “Uber button” for alternative transportation, present pre-arrival forms in a dramatically improved interface, and drop calendar reminders and notes directly into the device.

 Plan of care instructions can be loaded into the app, which can in-turn be used to update the physician as each step is completed (prescription refill, etc.).

 Finally, this improved experience can be shared by the patient to their “friend” network through the click of an app button, simplifying referral for patient and friend.

The benefits to the patient include simplification of a complex process during a stressful period and minimizing lifestyle disruption by eliminating burdensome steps. For the health system, operating expenses are driven down through “Do It Yourself” patient services, while revenue and share of wallet are increased through the dramatic improvement in patient experience and resulting gain in customer acquisition and retention.

Our mission is to leverage the principles and practices of progressive consumer markets and bring them to healthcare providers who recognize the need to earn every customer through differentiated customer experience. While far from trivial, we believe the playbook is being written every day as smart marketers and innovative technologists combine forces to transform an industry long-overdue for customer-facing change. Following on the well-laid tracks from organizations such as Amazon and Yelp, our clients are already enjoying the benefits of this fresh approach, as are their patients.

Check out: Top Patient Engagement Solution Companies

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