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What healthcare can learn from the retail customer experience – MedCity News

The accelerating retailization of healthcare presents health systems with multiple challenges as they shift from a facility-based care model to one more closely aligned with patient expectations as mobile digital consumers. One of the more difficult changes may be in adopting and adapting retail methods and mindsets to realize the improved care and financial outcomes that consumer-oriented patient experiences can deliver.

While retail consumer practices may seem irrelevant to traditional clinical thinking, they are quickly redefining what health systems need to do to fulfill their missions and remain competitive as care providers. Retail and tech giants such as Walmart, Amazon, CVS, and Dollar General have long used technology to meet customer expectations for convenient, personalized, multi-channel interactions and are stepping up to capture a piece of a $96.5B consumer healthcare opportunity. That includes healthcare’s “digital front door,” which IDC defines as the wraparound experience that changes the way patients get to engage with their care.

In healthcare, the providers and systems have a clear advantage as retailers lack the domain expertise that health systems have. However, retailers excel at defining and meeting customer-patient expectations of what healthcare journeys should be, namely, just like the dozens of other digital experiences in their daily lives.

According to the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality, patient experiences encompass a range of interactions including timely appointments, easy access to information, and satisfying communication with providers. But a 2018 NTT DATA Services study found those are exactly the areas where health systems fall short. Consumers overwhelmingly indicated that health systems and providers need to improve:

  • Accessing my family’s health records (80 percent)
  • Changing/making an appointment (79 percent)
  • Accessing test results (76 percent)
  • Paying my bill (75 percent)
  • Filling a prescription (74 percent)

Moreover, a survey of nearly 2,000 consumers published by Harvard Business Review found that 62 percent of people feel that the health care system is intentionally confusing.

Despite this, health systems may have an advantage because of their expertise in a heavily regulated, privacy-sensitive and infinitely complex industry. Pairing that expertise with consumer-oriented practices and partnerships with technology vendors will be the key to delivering successful consumer healthcare experiences.

There are three proven strategies that some of the largest and best-known health systems and providers in the U.S. are following:

  • Collaboration is key: Health systems and other stakeholders should partner with technology providers that can work as an extension of their team, guide them on best practices, respect their ownership of patient data and innovate to create and deploy the solutions needed. Vendors that can also address other priorities such as clinician recruitment, retention and wellness bring additional value.
  • Better patient experiences accelerate revenue recovery and growth: Accenture reports that health systems delivering positive patient experiences can expedite financial recovery and capture patients from competitors, potentially increasing annual revenues by 5 to 10 percent above pre-Covid levels, or $250 million to $500 million for a $5 billion organization.
  • Listen and learn: Expectations for patient experiences are evolving but a few things remain true. First, consumers want personalized experiences. Second, keep it simple. Third, make it fast without compromising quality or service. For example, 74 percent of patients are more likely to use online chat or SMS to check-in before an appointment. This is low-hanging fruit with a relatively high ROI.

As hospitals and health systems redefine and deliver consumer-oriented care, those that understand the value of the patient experience will emerge as leaders in the post-pandemic healthcare market.

Photo: blackCAT, Getty Images

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