By Erin Jospe, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Kyruus.
We live in the digital age, a time of unprecedented information generation and information consumption. Consumers have grown facile in their navigation of the information industry landscape, and have developed expectations of ready access to the data they need to make better, more satisfying decisions for themselves as to where their time and money is most rewardingly spent.
Health decisions are no exception to this new paradigm. Just like the ratings, the cost, and the availability data people use to consider what shoes to buy or restaurants to patronize, more and more patients are seeking a similar level of information to guide their decisions for where and with whom to pursue their care. This is not to equate the more superficial decisions we all make with little consequence to the decisions we make when considering where to receive safe and clinically sound healthcare.
Finding a care team with the clinical expertise to navigate a person safely through their new cancer diagnosis is clearly a vastly different premise than deciding on a pair of boots to buy. That said, it would be naive to think that patients don’t behave like consumers when they can, or that the information they want to make those care decisions remains optional in the competitive market of attracting and retaining patients.
Indeed, studies of consumer behavior bear that out. Consumers want to make informed decisions, and more than half will go online to research providers before selecting one, typically starting with a general internet search. This desire for due diligence with additional research is true even when they have a specific provider recommendation in hand.
To meet patient expectations in the successful selection and scheduling of a provider, we need to acknowledge the importance of being able to readily access the desired information – information that makes it easier for patients to determine if a provider aligns with their clinical needs, logistical requirements, and personal preferences. Savvy health systems embrace the need to surface this provider data, and in so doing, attract and retain a broad customer base.
The start of the patient’s experience with a health system’s providers begins with an ability to discover and leverage the information they want to make decisions about their care providers. While every potential patient will be motivated differently, most commonly seek information on accepted insurance, clinical expertise, and availability.
Certainly locations, cost, languages, gender, publications and education are among the other types of data that influence a patient’s selection of a provider. And this is to say nothing of how a picture of the provider, their professional statement, or their reputation as captured in online ratings and reviews can further assist in the conversion of a consumer’s interest into a booked appointment.
With so many different factors influencing a patient’s decision, the numerous online sources of that data, and the varied accuracy of the data that is available, satisfying customer demand for data can seem daunting to say the least. But health systems need to take action to consolidate, curate, and make this information available to attract and keep customers effectively.
In that regard, committing to the patient experience means committing to a provider data strategy. The number of people utilizing digital information to make their decisions is only increasing as technology is further democratized. Forward-thinking health systems know that their providers’ digital data presence is one of the most valuable assets they have when it comes to patient acquisition and retention. Their evolving data strategies will need to leverage numerous sources and types of data from within the health system and beyond, it will require quality checks to ensure data accuracy and comprehensiveness, and it will necessitate flexibility and innovation to consider whatever new types of data that may come along with value to the consumer decision-making process.
The result of that kind of investment in provider data is a patient experience that will continue to improve with the ease of access to such information, as well as patient empowerment in finding the best possible provider match for their unique needs and preferences.