Guest Column | December 17, 2019

Closing 3 Common Gaps in the Patient Experience

By Abhay Singhal, CitiusTech

Bridging The Gap

Managing data is key to actionable insight that fills the gaps and improves outcomes

Healthcare, like all other industries, is making the shift toward ‘Consumerism.’ Patients expect healthcare to provide the level of self-service convenience and mobility they experience in their interactions with travel, financial services and retail companies. In particular, a growing number of younger consumers see no need to affiliate with a primary care provider. Instead, young adults are turning to a fast-growing constellation of alternatives, such as drugstore retail clinics, free-standing urgent care centers offering evening and weekend hours and virtual care visits. Traditional care is evolving – and primary care providers are gradually being replaced by dispersed and decentralized services, creating a vital data gap among patients, providers, the health system and payers.

Simultaneously, patients want digital tools to engage with their providers, such as easy access to their records, convenient scheduling options, one touch ordering for medication refills and healthcare alerts delivered to their device of choice. Not surprisingly, this aspect of care is important enough that patients will switch providers over a poor experience. Half of consumers say they are frustrated about their provider’s lack of adoption of digital administrative processes, such as online bill pay, access to insurance information, digital pre-appointment forms and electronic bill delivery. In fact, forty-one percent of patients said they would stop going to their healthcare provider over a poor digital experience, and 1 in 5 patients have already done so.

Hence, it’s time for a big reality check in healthcare. As the volume of healthcare data grows, so do the challenges payers and providers face analyzing that data to truly improve the speed of decision making to transform their organizations and deliver value to their patients. The digital transformation is underway to address fundamental gaps in the patient experience while effectively managing growing data volumes and velocity to make data actionable for improved patient outcomes.

Minding The Gaps And The Data That Fills Them

It’s no wonder patients are frustrated, since their digital experiences have been shaped by the travel and retail industries that are much farther ahead than healthcare. However, understanding the common gaps from patients’ perspectives can provide valuable insight and help inform a healthcare organization’s data management strategy. Consider these frustrations:

  1. Patient expectations for digital engagement: Patients want to engage in ways that enable shared decision making with their providers, including the flexibility to manage key aspects of their own care, such as scheduling and rescheduling appointments via their mobile device.
  2. Patient-provider communication: Patients want to communicate directly via secure messaging platforms with care providers to obtain information, such as lab results, in a timely manner using a device of their choice.
  3. Patient data management: Patients and providers alike continue to be frustrated when data or records go missing, even among providers within the same health system.

Embarking upon digital transformation to deliver more seamless patient experiences requires effective management of the increasing volume and velocity of data, assuring it will be actionable at the right place and the right time. Organizations need to implement policies and infrastructure for:  

  1. Data retention: Specify the number of years historical data will be maintained.
  2. Data quality: Implement data quality tools to keep master and transaction data clean and consistent.
  3. Data freshness: Enable efficient data updates and sharing among stakeholders.

Putting Data Into Action To Fill Gaps, Improve Outcomes

With the right infrastructure and data management governance in place, healthcare provider and payer organizations are well-positioned to apply advanced analytics in creative ways, such as streaming and real-time analytics, Big Data and cloud-based analytics and artificial intelligence, and machine learning-based analytics. These tools facilitate faster, easier integration of data within key workflows.

As organizations progress in their digital transformation, many initiate a deeper analysis of the patient experience using digital journey maps. For example, a large health system created a digital journey map for inpatient, emergency department and outpatient and service line experiences. They were able to draw conclusions about gaps that helped unify the experience across settings – a key factor in patient satisfaction and retention.

With real-time workflow integration, organizations can put data directly in the hands of care teams and patients for easier patient engagement. For example, a large health system used digital integration between its providers and independent referring providers to offer a seamless patient referral experience. Both patients and their referring providers were more satisfied, and the health system was able to keep patients within their network.

Communication and data collection improve dramatically when patients and their monitoring devices engage directly. For instance, patients can contribute to their own care management plan by self-reporting medication adherence and other data, while their activity tracker reports activity levels. With reliable data and secure communications, the care team can effectively coach patients – and intervene quickly if needed – to improve outcomes.

Looking Forward In The Digital Journey

For healthcare organizations to succeed in their digital transformation, it’s critical to put effective data management and analytics in place to ensure data is actionable at the right place and the right time to improve care outcomes. By stepping back to analyze workflows and processes and create digital journey maps, organizations can identify and prioritize patient experience gaps – and implement strategies to address them. As patient expectations for speed and convenience continue to rise, organizations that meet and exceed expectations will create a significant competitive advantage, making it a worthwhile investment.

About The Author

Abhay Singhal is senior vice president, provider & healthcare solutions at CitiusTech.