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Patient Engagement Tech Considerations for Healthcare Consumerism

April 27, 2021 at 11:00:00 PM

Patient engagement tools for healthcare consumerism should streamline existing care delivery factors, not replicate and digitize them.



Patient Engagement Tech Considerations for Healthcare Consumerism


Sara Heath

Healthcare organizations using technology to support healthcare consumerism need to dispel themselves of pervious notions of manual processes and in-person care, according to a recent Deloitte report.

Instead, they need to reconsider a whole new way for consumers to approach their medical care that emphasizes efficiency, convenience, and consumer experience, the Deloitte authors said.

The report, Opportunities for consumer-facing technologies in health systems: Building a better health care experience, leveraged interviews with technology, marketing, and healthcare stakeholders to assess where the industry is in adapting to consumer engagement tools.

By and large, healthcare organizations are limited by their current notions of how they deliver medicine. This has kept the industry from fully going consumer-centric the way other industries have.

Take, for instance, the food ordering and delivery landscape, the report offered.

“With a few clicks, we can order food, pay using saved bank information, and request customizations to the order (from how it’s cooked to when and where it gets delivered),” the authors noted.

“All of these things can be accomplished without leaving the couch,” the report continued. “No wonder the use of food delivery apps has exploded the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology has led to personalized, integrated, seamless, and frictionless experiences in food delivery. Why can’t health care be like this?”

Interviewees agreed that the medical industry understands that model should be the ideal for consumerism, the report revealed.

But technology needs a massive shift to become consumer-friendly. Because most patient engagement technologies were designed with the in-person healthcare encounter in mind, they aren’t “truly digital” and don’t exactly meet patient needs, especially after a year that has seen an explosion in remote patient care.

That explosion in remote patient care did accelerate plans for consumer-facing technology, the focus group acknowledged. However, in some cases it prohibited a thoughtful approach and left organizations leaning on more outdated approaches to consumer engagement, Deloitte explained.

“Some health systems built their digital services around antiquated ideas about how care is delivered in person,” the report authors wrote. “They built digital tools that are substitutive, rather than developing more transformative tools that are intuitive and consumer-friendly.”

Take, for example, the virtual waiting room many organizations built out as part of their transition to telehealth care access. The logic behind these tracks; if a patient has a 3 p.m. telehealth appointment and the clinician is running late, these waiting rooms serve a purpose for a patient who is on time. This is where the patient waits for the telehealth meeting to start.

But Deloitte suggested this paradigm needs an entire overhaul. If the patient is waiting at home for a telehealth appointment, why can’t she simply receive a notification stating when she can join the digital meeting? The digital waiting room uses an old-fashioned view of the care encounter, whereas the digital notification embraces the consumer-facing, tech-driven future, Deloitte suggested.

By and large, organization leadership needs to prioritize healthcare consumerism projects like this, and organizations need to carve out stronger digital health quality measures.

Deloitte recommended organizations begin by identifying the biggest patient engagement pain points that could be alleviated with consumer-facing technology. In other words: don’t bite off more than you can chew.

For example, patient access technology that streamlines the registration process can be a good place to start this transformation, Deloitte recommended. A truly consumer-centered approach to this would allow patients to update paperwork and upload data from remote patient monitoring devices. The EHR would also pre-population important clinical information.

Additionally, healthcare organizations should use market data to better understand the needs and wants of the healthcare consumer. This could lead to patient segmentation, which Deloitte explained would allow organizations to keep patient preferences in mind when deploying digital tools.

For example, is an automated text message or an automated email preferrable in communication? It could also help guide investment decisions.

Using technology that is simple and focusing on integrating data and systems will likewise be helpful. This could streamline access points for consumers, Deloitte added, ensuring they can utilize all consumer engagement tools from a singular log-in.

And on that note, healthcare organizations should partner with other groups to ensure they can deliver the capabilities needed to fully engage the patient or consumer.

“Health systems should recognize when they need technology capabilities that do not yet exist in their organization,” the Deloitte report said. “Identifying needed capabilities and partners can help ensure they become reality.”

When organizations have deployed a new consumer engagement tool, it will be essential to carve out performance measures that go beyond patient satisfaction scores. Although patient experience is a key motivator for adopting consumer technology, brand loyalty and efficiency are also key to clinic or hospital improvement.

Finally, organizations need to understand the needs and perspectives of staff, including clinical and administrative, to ensure new digital patient technologies also incorporate seamlessly into their workflows.

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