Article | February 16, 2022

The Doctor Will See You Now: Why Patient Experience Matters

By Peyman Zand, Vice President, Advisory Services, CereCore


We all want to put patients first, but the reality of our pandemic world and current restraints (i.e., financial, staffing, inflation, etc.) doesn’t always make this easy to do. While digital patient offerings have increased significantly since the onset of COVID, many hospital executives are struggling to correlate digital offerings with quality. At the end of the day, it’s all about the quality of the experience the patient is getting, not simply the technology available.

We recently sat down with three leading industry executives to discuss the challenges and victories associated with strengthening the patient experience:

  • Ajai Sehgal, Chief Data & Analytics Officer at Mayo Clinic
  • Chad Wasserman, Vice President of Digital Patient Experience (DXP) at HCA
  • Mark Gilbert, Research Director at Gartner

Here are three key insights gleaned from that discussion.

Insight #1: Digital and patient satisfaction first

While the pandemic has caused a pendulum swing in the energy around patient digital experience, the history of patient experience in the U.S. is very short. The correlation between patient experience, satisfaction, and quality has largely been based on what’s worked best with in-person experiences. The verdict on digital patient experiences and quality is a wildcard —are the patients using digital tools really that satisfied? What keeps them with one provider verses another?

As healthcare providers rush to prioritize patient digital interactions, the challenge is to prevent those digital experiences from creating an even more fragmented, disconnected journey for patients. As Mark Gilbert eloquently explained, the emphasis on digital products has created gaps in care, compromising quality and experience. It’s time to step back and approach the “digital first” environment with vigor around patient experience and build high satisfaction into the digital journey, too.

At the root of these issues is the mass number of disruptors that have come on the scene. No longer do providers dominate the market share; in today’s landscape you’ll find payers, life science organizations and retailers are taking the industry by storm and vying for patients’ attention (and wallets). Providers are competing against organizations on the global scale and struggling to keep up.

The other key issue for a digital first approach has to do with data. There is so much of it, and many organizations struggle to know how to use it effectively. The average health system has 18 different EMR vendors, which means a lot of disparate data is living in silos. In order for digital patient offerings to work and have value, providers have to figure out how to connect this data together.  

Insight #2: Products over Projects

The Mayo Clinic, ranked #1 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report in the 2019-2020 Best Hospitals Honor Roll, serves 1.3 million+ patients annually with representation across 50 states and 140 countries. Their ability to prioritize patients first with compassionate care and short wait times has been affectionately termed the “Mayo hug.” But what about the digital patient experience?

According to Ajai Sehgal, the challenge lies in translating the in-person experience that patients have come to know and love to the digital world. To do this, Sehgal and the team at Mayo have taken a “products over projects” approach, which has led to a cultural shift and practice in agility. The goal? “Deliver a journey that is as excellent as the experience you have on your iPhone,” says Sehgal.

One way Mayo is prioritizing products over projects is through the capitalization of their 150 years of data. As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest disruptors to an integrated patient experience is isolation of data. By utilizing technologies such as wearable devices and Machine Learning, the team at Mayo has been able to invent a more centralized patient record that deepens connections across the patient journey.

Mayo has also partnered with companies like Apple to analyze and access consumer level digital devices as well as medical devices. The goal is to continue connecting dots across the care continuum and help patients to feel like a human being and not a number. This approach to care delivery is not only preferred by patients, but also mutually beneficial to the hospital system. Research has found that at-home care with remote patient monitoring (RPM) services not only frees up hospital resources, but it’s also much better for patients’ long-term recovery.

Insight #3: People, Processes & Technology

The third and final takeaway from the discussion centered on the people, processes and technology involved in creating an effective patient experience. HCA is no stranger to the complexity of this equation, with over 2,200 locations, 180+ hospitals and over 7,000 physicians.

As Chad Wasserman explained, it’s easy to book a reservation on OpenTable for dinner at a restaurant. Today, scheduling a physician appointment through your patient portal can be convenient for certain types of appointments, and it helps reduce back and forth phone calls. One of HCA’s pilots for Q2 of this year is to test an online scheduling platform for procedures that don’t require doctor’s orders. Wasserman explained that their practices currently receive high call volumes each week for mammography appointments. Having digital scheduling capabilities will allow staff to prioritize higher impact needs.

Like Gilbert and Sehgal, Wasserman also spoke to the challenges associated with data. He emphasized a real need to check, validate and ultimately provide the data in a way that ensures the patient is properly cared for. The goal would be a seamless movement of data across care settings.

Lastly, Wasserman talked about the need for digital experiences to help bridge the gap between payers and providers. When it comes to the financial experience, there’s a real opportunity to offer patients more convenience, which could contribute to a more positive sentiment relative to their care overall. With lack of unity amongst various EMRs and clinicians in the same practice, it can be easy for patients to get hit with bills from all sides, both in physical and electronic formats. More focus on consumer friendly, mobile options for patient financing could mean a more convenient, efficient experience for both parties.

In Conclusion    

As we move beyond the four walls of the traditional care setting and establish new ways and systems for engaging with patients, the panel concluded with the following:

  • Embrace consumer wearables and RPM. These devices provide a treasure trove to advancements and insights if we choose to embrace them and follow the data. It’s also better for patient recovery.
  • Work on inefficiencies with payer provider relations. 62% of patients say that knowing their out-of-pocket expenses in advance of service impacts the likelihood of pursuing care. Don’t leave them in the dark.
  • Remember your employees. It can become easy when making enhancements to the patient experience to overlook your most important asset—employees. These times have been called the Great Resignation for a reason. Make your employees priority number one, and this will have a positive ripple effect.   

About the Author

Peyman Zand is the Vice President of Advisory Services at CereCore where he provides consultative services to healthcare clients, assisting them with strategic planning, governance and program development framework needed to align and implement key initiatives and introduce pragmatic innovations into the organization. He is a Certified Healthcare Executive (CFCHE) through CHIME College and is a board member at the Tennessee Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (TNHIMMS).