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Five Digital Strategies to Start Improving the Patient Experience

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By Taqee Khaled

Client Engagement Director

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If you didn’t make it to the NG Healthcare Digital Summit, read on for a summary of takeaways and common challenges facing healthcare industry leaders. We heard from nearly all healthcare leaders in attendance that improving the patient experience is a top business priority, but they are not always sure where to start. Here are five digital strategies to get started improving the patient experience.

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Build a digital front door (Not just a commoditized website).

Working with an onshore partner that understands national and regional consumer and digital healthcare trends is a great place to start building a digital front door. More than a transactional space and not a commoditized website, a well-built digital front door should meet both patient and business needs, as well as drive behavioral change. 

The COVID-19 pandemic made hospitals, health systems and health insurers highly aware that consumers expect their digital experiences to be on par with digital experiences they have with retail and FinTech, and that they are far behind these industries. Though full-blown digital transformation can take years, consider building a “digital front door” as a foundational place to start. And from there, drill down to the top needs for customers, patients and providers. Use agile product development processes to quickly identify specific patient needs within a particular segment of patients or health conditions, and spin up testable, iterative prototypes. 

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Connect existing platforms and tools (EHR, HIT, etc.) to make a seamless digital ecosystem that centers around the patient.

One of the most significant barriers to IT system interoperability are siloed EHR or EMR systems. That’s because these systems were initially designed to collect transactional, fee-for-service data; not the systems that are essential to improve patient care. Nor are standalone EHR systems easy to integrate with other systems.

In a patient-centered model, healthcare systems hyper-focus on the “patient journey” and design care services and communications around the patient. Today, in most healthcare systems, care is based on transactions, “assembly lines” that move people as fast as possible while providing them with services and supplies. You go to the ER; you get bills from the hospital, the anesthesiologist, ER doctor and pharmacy.

To ensure your healthcare technology platforms prioritize patient experience, don’t summarize your data by hospital, location or department. Modernize your systems on the cornerstone of patient experience and everything else will fall into place.

Read this article on how to put patients first when modernizing healthcare technology for an in-depth look at creating a seamless, resilient digital ecosystem.

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Shore up your virtual care platform.

While some healthcare systems were more prepared than others to handle an influx in demand for virtual care during the coronavirus pandemic, many of the temporary solutions were developed hastily, with very little connection to a broader, long-term digital transformation strategy. In most cases, the patient and provider experiences are less-than-ideal, and data cannot be pushed or pulled between enterprise and virtual care platforms. That means double entry of routine data, gaps in care continuity, and missed opportunities to improve operational and administrative efficiency and effectiveness.

Providers who are willing to immediately revisit their virtual care offerings and build an integrated patient-centric care platform will be best positioned to meet the demand. Here’s how four key digital business transformation trends are influencing integrated patient-centric virtual care platform development: Transform Patient Journeys With Virtual Care 

Use data, machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate parts of the patient journey.

Digital products from telehealth to clinical chart access have given unprecedented touchpoints to a patient’s previous in-clinic visits. As the digital footprint increases, the data available from these applications also increases. 

Part of the slowness in leveraging the rich data these digital tools are producing is caused by providers often not having a centralized data repository. Historically, the EMR was the centralization for patient data, but it’s no longer a solution for housing the many types of new patient data. Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure have risen to the challenge by offering robust solutions that offer not only storage, but also the ability to analyze and integrate back into nearly any environment.

Data is not just another component to implement for health systems and infrastructure. If done correctly, it will act as the interstitial tissue to empower all systems to work more efficiently and ultimately improve patient outcomes

Check out these additional resources on how to use data, machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve the patient experience: Data Interoperability and the Patient Experience, New Year, New Rules: Are You Ready for Healthcare Cost Transparency?

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Provide a behavioral health virtual care option for patients.

Among healthcare system leaders, there is a lot of interest in developing virtual care solutions for behavioral health. Again, the COVID-19 pandemic raised awareness of the importance of behavioral health, with healthcare systems reporting significant growth in use of virtual care to deliver mental health services during the pandemic. We also heard that providers are not seeing demand for behavioral health services lessen (both virtual and in-person) even as vaccination rates increase and infection rates decrease. Thus to say, behavioral health virtual care is here to stay. 

Read how Mayo Clinic efficiently developed an e-tool to address patients’ mental health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With these five key areas to start improving the patient experience, consider two or three that rise to the top as priority and that align with business objectives, and start there.

Still not sure where to begin improving the patient experience? Nerdery can help you find clarity;