January 3, 2017

In an earlier post, we discussed how healthcare payers and providers are adapting to the needs of healthcare consumers—a topic explored at the recent 2016 emids Healthcare Summit. People want personalized experiences with healthcare organizations, not necessarily digital ones, panelists at the Summit noted. Healthcare consumers also want convenient access to affordable care and price transparency. Home care, telehealth and retail clinics are resonating as a result. Understanding the right balance between high-tech and human touch is important for all companies in the healthcare ecosystem.

Healthcare consumerism should also strive for simplicity. The complexity of health plans, the ongoing campaigns of marketers seeking customer loyalty, and the advent of digital technology are cutting at the very heart of healthcare: the sacred patient-doctor relationship. Simplicity begins with strengthening those relationships. Patients will listen to their trusted physicians above all and will adopt new technology faster if it allows them to have better access to those providers.

Panelists discussed other ways for innovators simplify healthcare for patients, while still meeting broader objectives. These include:

Simplify Telehealth

One of the barriers of telehealth for patients is that while it’s nice to click a button and talk to a doctor in minutes from the comfort of your own living room, it’s not usually your doctor on the screen. Health plans may offer covered telehealth services, yet the options aren’t often connected to providers in the local market, Summit panelists noted. Ideally, a telehealth solution should be part of an integrated care plan for patients, connecting them with practices and clinicians they already know. Patients shouldn’t have to search for a suitable telehealth solution; the provider should offer the best one they can and encourage its use for mutual benefits. This, of course, depends upon widespread insurance coverage for telehealth, which is still far from reality.

Simplify Digital Health

Mobile apps, portals, wearables and other technologies are revolutionizing the delivery and tracking of care, but they won’t be used by patients unless they are effortless and deliver a clear benefit. That’s why mobile apps for refilling prescriptions are so popular; a few clicks does the job, with no calls or searching up prescription numbers necessary. Apps to simplify appointment scheduling and complete forms could also improve a painful consumer experience.

Simplify the Experience

Look for “in the moment” options to offer new services to patients that save them time or stress. New York Presbyterian Hospital offers an “express care” service for people coming to the emergency room. They can have a telehealth visit and be treated within 30 minutes instead of possibly waiting for hours to see an ER physician in the flesh. The hospital also offers a telehealth solution for follow-up visits after discharge. This notion of in-the-moment targeting comes straight from the world of retail—offer new services and information to a captive audience when consumers are in the store or on your site. That’s a better strategy than bugging people to participate in a new program or download a mobile app later, when they’re back home.

Simplify Pricing

Healthcare consumers carry the burden of cost today, but unlike any other product or service, they rarely know the price ahead of time. Worse, prices fluctuate wildly. It’s like buying a gallon of gas for $20 in one neighborhood and driving one mile away to see gas advertised for $1. Healthcare providers have an obligation to be more transparent, and explain why their service is twice as expensive as a competitor’s. New services, like Healthcare Bluebook, are trying to fill the gap by offering consumers an easy way to comparison shop online among providers in their insurance network.

Moving to simpler processes and experiences for consumers is far from simple in the complex business of healthcare. Yet introducing any simplification, no matter how small, is a worthy pursuit for growing consumer engagement in the future.

Want to learn more about how payers and providers are enhancing the healthcare experience for consumers? Visit our website to download our event charter from the 2016 emids Healthcare Summit.

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