The Path to More Consumerized Healthcare

By Robbie Hughes, founder and CEO, Lumeon.

Robbie Hughes

When you think of an industry that’s mastered the creation of a seamless, digitally integrated experience for the customer journey, the airline and travel sector is unlikely the first that comes to mind. The experience has become so seamless as to be practically invisible, and any breakdown in that seamlessness is highly painful and disruptive for the customer.

The airline industry is the perfect example of one that has succeeded in orchestrating the customer journey and improved customer experience. Rather than calling a travel agent to book or manage one’s travel itineraries, passengers now research, book and manage flights on their own – and do so digitally. Not only do these digital tools allow passengers to check-in, upgrade and receive loyalty benefits, but they also keep passengers current with real-time flight status – from check-in times and cancellations or delays, to re-booking and satisfaction surveys.

What used to be a highly fragmented journey for travellers is now seamlessly connected thanks to online services that deliver the sort of automatic, digital experience that today’s consumers have come to expect in every aspect of their lives, from online retail shopping to booking travel accommodations.

Healthcare is not exempt from that expectation. In fact, consumers – Millennials and Generation Z, in particular – who are accustomed to this new world of always-on, instant service are causing the healthcare industry to undergo its own consumerization. Patients want the ability to manage their healthcare digitally the same way airline passengers automatically manage their travel.

Evidence of this industry wide shift has been steady. For example, mail-order prescriptions have been around since the 1990s, slowly increasing in popularity over the years and are more prevalent now than ever before. Just within the past year, we’ve seen new startups like NowRx and Capsule emerge while tech giants (the originators of today’s consumer experience) snatch up others as they foray into healthcare, such as Amazon’s acquisition of PillPack.

In fact, Amazon’s entry into the healthcare market alone is proof of the industry’s broader consumerization. Amazon’s business model has completely disrupted the retail industry and been a primary driver in creating today’s consumer expectations for seamless, digital experiences. Most recently, Amazon announced that its Alexa device is now HIPAA-compliant, allowing health organizations to use the voice-enabled speaker to help patients book appointments, access hospital post-discharge instructions, check the status of a prescription delivery, and much more.

This recent development is further proof of patients’ desire for convenience through using digital tools in their healthcare – something the industry has been slow to adopt.

Prepare for takeoff

Healthcare today consists of a broken, fragmented patient experience. The industry, however, stands at a turning point, where vast amounts of digital patient data are already available. By leveraging this data, healthcare organizations have an opportunity to differentiate their brands and create a seamless care journey – just like airlines keep passengers continually engaged, and ultimately deliver better service at a lower cost.

How can healthcare use available data to take off and further consumerize the patient experience? Real-time health systems, which Gartner considers “a management and operating paradigm…for the next-generation healthcare provider,” will play a pivotal role in transforming the way providers deliver care. Not only can real-time health systems orchestrate the care journey, but they also deliver real-time situational awareness about the patient’s history, as well as current and future care needs. Embracing real-time health systems will be key to unlocking a truly digital consumer experience, ensuring that computer systems execute best-practice behind every care journey.

To most people, a good patient experience has historically meant that their doctor is friendly and does what they ask, regardless of whether it produces the best outcome. With real-time health systems, however, providers can begin to improve their own delivery of care by executing on a well-managed longitudinal care pathway – and do so at a lower cost.

The customer comes first

Real-time health systems are not the technology of tomorrow. In fact, coupled with an abundance of existing health data, the ability to orchestrate and automate processes in real time to, in turn, personalize the patient experience and streamline care team activity is achievable today. The greatest obstacle that the industry faces is that today’s patient is not treated as the “customer.”

Physicians have historically been treated more like the “customers” of U.S. healthcare organizations than its patients. Most often, organizations find themselves at the mercy of physicians because they own the relationship with the patient. Upset the physician, and they can opt to practice elsewhere – taking all their patients and referrals with them. Not only does this mean health systems are focused on catering more to their physicians than patients, but this culture also breeds further fragmentation of care.

As the industry shifts to a value-based care model, we will begin to see this change. From there, healthcare organizations will begin designing IT infrastructure with the intention of enabling their care teams to engage patients across their end-to-end care journeys, rather than building it around the physician. This organizational re-design (and as a result, redefining healthcare’s true “customer”) is necessary to achieve the consumerized healthcare experience patients today demand.

Buckle up

As in most other industries, healthcare is undergoing changes to meet shifting expectations from patients and consumers alike. In fact, studies find that nearly half of providers say revamping the patient experience is one of their organization’s top three priorities in the next five years. Thankfully, the technology to make this happen already exists and can be put in place today.

Healthcare systems that make the transition early on and master real-time health system orchestration will be the most successful in meeting consumer expectations. Just think, passengers opt for airlines that deliver a superior experience along their travel journey – so why wouldn’t a patient opt for a health system that delivers a personalized, continuous care journey over ones that don’t?

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