By Jean-Pierre Stephan, managing director, Accenture Health.
COVID-19 has disrupted industries, and nowhere is it more apparent than in healthcare. Given the urgency of addressing the pandemic – from ensuring new protocols are in place amidst the pandemic, prioritizing capacity and delivering healthcare services in new manners – the concept of the “patient experience” may have been put on the backburner for many in the industry. That is a mistake.
Now, moreso than ever, is the time to put the patient experience front and center. People are re-evaluating how they consume healthcare: asking themselves – is this the safest way for me to handle my medical care? Is it the best way? Can we leverage more virtual and digital solutions for care?
Indeed, a new report found those health systems that evolve to meet patient needs, amidst the pandemic, are best poised to not only retain their current patient base but also increase it. Healthcare providers could potentially increase their revenues by 5% to 10% of their pre-COVID levels within 12 months. For a $5 billion health system, this equals between $250 million and $500 million in additional annual revenues. Think about it – people have put off many non-urgent medical issues that they will eventually need to address. But it doesn’t mean that they will naturally return to their previous healthcare provider.
According to this report, two out of three patients are likely to switch to a new provider if their expectations for how the healthcare provider manages COVID-19 are not met. To avoid losses and position for growth, providers should take the following approach to improve patient experience.
- Embrace change
Providers should listen to a patient’s unique concerns to better understand their communities. This allows real-time response to fears and confusion or reinforcement of actionable information. For example, if there is a need for additional counsel—such as symptoms of COVID-19 compared to symptoms of other illnesses—listening will present an opportunity to quickly provide necessary information. Alternatively, if something is not going as planned, community feedback gives healthcare providers an advantage to get ahead of potential problems (and their solutions). Leveraging digital tools to stay connected will not only help healthcare providers during this pandemic crisis, but could be used in a post-COVID world as a way to stay connected.
- Make it personal
An alarming one in four patients believe their healthcare provider handled COVID-19 poorly and never plan to return—or will wait at least a year before doing so. To boost trust in a provider’s COVID response, new safety and wellness protocols must be introduced and enforced and “advertised” to customers so they know their providers are thinking about their experience. Proactive communication around these efforts is necessary for patients to fully understand the protections in place. Providers can go the extra mile by addressing specific patient concerns, raising credibility through personalized communications.
- Go virtual and digital
In a major technology shift, more than half of healthcare consumers say they are likely to use telehealth or virtual visits for routine health check-ups. And even more are comfortable using texting or online chats to share information. As patients seek virtual care for routine appointments, and as they expect digital interactions as the norm for pre- and post-medical meeting interactions, providers who are slow to adopt virtual care models and digital services risk losing their patient base.
Conversely, those that do adopt these measures are poised to attract new customers. How healthcare providers act now, in this time of crisis with a spotlight on the industry, will be etched into peoples’ minds for a long time to come.