How To Turn Telehealth Into a Comprehensive Digital Patient Experience

Tiffany Lily

By Tiffany Lily, healthcare experience consultant, TTEC Digital.

For years, patients had only a few channels in which they could interact with their healthcare providers. They saw their care team in-person during check-ups, interfaced with support and appointment scheduling staff at the front desk, or called to get in touch with a clinician to answer their questions.

Over the past decade, however, this short list of touchpoints has expanded to include a broad portfolio of digital tools and communication channels—creating new opportunities for patients to personalize their healthcare journey. When the pandemic halted in-person appointments, these alternative touchpoints quickly became the primary channels by which patients could interface with their providers.

Broadly speaking, the Great Telehealth Experiment has been a monumental success. In the spring of 2020, telehealth appointments were 78 times higher than pre-pandemic levels. Even as the dust has settled on pandemic-related lockdowns, telehealth usage remains 40 times higher than pre-pandemic levels.

But telehealth is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this emerging “digital front door” approach to healthcare. Now, patients expect even more. They’ve seen the potential of the digital-first experience and how it can positively impact their lives, and they’re eager to see healthcare begin to replicate the last best experiences they encounter every day from many of the most well-known retail giants. More importantly, surveys show they’re willing to seek out and even pay more for the providers who can meet their high expectations.

To build patient loyalty and promote positive patient experiences, healthcare organizations face a golden opportunity to augment telehealth capabilities with a robust ecosystem of supplementary tools and channels that allow them to adapt to the new healthcare journeys patients prefer in the digital healthcare era. In many ways, healthcare is undergoing the same growing pains ecommerce organizations experienced just a few decades earlier, with one major difference: many healthcare organizations simply don’t have the comprehensive strategic view or technological know-how to build out this digital ecosystem on their own.

Fortunately, the path to patient experience transformation doesn’t have to feel daunting. After decades of engagements helping healthcare organizations move to the forefront of digital care, we’ve identified a handful of the most common process-based best practices that your organization can use to frame up its digital transformation.

Determine the Value of a Patient to Your Organization

This might feel like a step backward, but it’s an important part of the validation process. Before you begin investing in your patient experience, it helps to know what a patient is worth to your organization. Consider the average revenue derived from various appointments and procedures, as well as the number of visits and number of years in the average patient lifecycle. These will become valuable pieces of information later, when it comes time to providing rationale to senior leadership for the need to invest in patient experience.

Map and Understand Your Current State

This second step is one of the most crucial steps in the transformation journey, yet it is often one of the most neglected. Make sure you make the time to take a close look at your existing healthcare journey—where does it fall short and where and when are patients looking for more? Voice of Customer (VoC), patient research and data analysis, and journey mapping exercises can help establish gaps between your existing experience and the experience you want to deliver.

Define Your North Star

A North Star is the brand promise that guides every interaction patients have with your brand. By considering this North Star in every decision you make, your healthcare organization can begin to design more consistent patient experiences that fit into a holistic digital strategy. To jumpstart this conversation, consider this question: What do you want your organization to be remembered for in the patient experiences you deliver?

Develop a Robust Transformation Strategy

At this stage, it’s time to begin looking at the people, processes, and technologies you’ll need to pull together to make your digital front door a reality. While tool identification is certainly a part of this step, it’s important to consider the other elements that will need to happen in the background. For example, take care to clarify the responsibilities, tasks, and resources that will be needed to put your strategy into action. And of course, keep an eye on how you will be able to measure success after the fact. These can help keep your identified digital strategy honest over time.

Gain Organizational Buy-In for Transformation

In many cases, healthcare organizations will face some resistance as they seek to deploy a modern digital front door. This is normal and it usually stems from uncertainty or lack of clarity around the new expectations associated with the changes. Total support for this transformation is key to its success, which is why change management strategies and techniques will play an important role in pushing your digital front door across the finish line. Within the change management umbrella, focus on how you will socialize your progress, receive feedback from internal stakeholders, and test and pilot your concepts during launch.

Orchestrate Improved Experiences That Work Together

This is where the transformative action takes place. Based on the North Star and patient expectations identified in the steps above, a variety of components might make sense to introduce, including mobile apps, portals, digital properties, data tools, virtual care solutions, and more. If you haven’t already, this is often a good place to consult the healthcare experiences (HX) experts who can help design and implement the solutions at the foundation of your digital front door strategy. Engaging an HX partner can help smooth this process and help your organization achieve the end state more quickly.

Whatever your organization’s preparedness for experience transformation, framing your strategy around these proven best practices can help focus your efforts and deliver more impactful results. As you begin to plan your long-term digital front door strategy, consider which of these steps your team is currently equipped to manage and where outside support would help streamline your transformation. Often, strategically chosen partnerships can help accentuate your team’s impact—driving critical patient loyalty and boosting your organization’s bottom line to new heights.

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