Healthcare is a unique sector. There is no other industry that undergoes such radical transformations and evolutions. And today, healthcare is pushing new frontiers with AI and machine learning, robotics, distance care technologies, and more. But beyond these amazing disruptive technologies and their potential, another human-centered area has become a make-or-break factor for healthcare organizations.
As a paper published by The New England Journal of Medicine, just 10 years ago, the relationship between patients and doctors, and healthcare institutions was widely different from what it is today. Doctors were seen as authority figures, and patients were mostly expected to trust their judgment and the administration´s decisions without question.
This paternalistic relationship, which dominated the industry for centuries, had a reason to be. It was designed to create an emotional detachment based on outdated medical ethical values. But patient expectations and their demands have shifted, creating new normals and setting new standards for care, accelerated by pandemic and post-pandemic years. The era of patient-centered care is without a doubt upon us, and is here to stay.
Understanding the challenges of patient-centered experiences
In any other industry, a customer’s relationship with a company is simply their customer experience. But in healthcare, due to the nature of the field, customer experience becomes patient experience—the difference is not just a change in words.
The challenges that the patient-centered experience presents are very different as they deal with highly sensitive issues. Furthermore, patient-centered experiences must meet the highest standards as well as ensure compliance with laws such as HIPAA. They must also build trust and offer transparency.
While many may think that patient-centered care values are well-established norms, the reality is that they are still unresolved pain points for many patients.
62% of nearly 2,000 consumers surveyed by The Harris Poll say the health care system feels like it’s designed to be confusing and therefore avoid seeking care. It’s more important than ever for healthcare providers to improve the customer experience of their platforms, ensuring seamless access to care.
The consequences of bad customer experiences in healthcare can be extreme. While in retail, the worst-case scenario is losing a client, in healthcare, a bad customer experience can result in the loss of life, impact patients’ health, affect the reputation of doctors, professionals, and institutions and even lead to serious legal consequences. Furthermore, a healthcare institution that provides a poor patient experience is negatively impacting an entire community’s wellness and quality of life and, therefore, its economy.
However, despite the many challenges that patience-centered experiences present, the values associated with the concept have great potential to serve as a blueprint, guiding those building CX in healthcare.
Using patient-centered care values as a blueprint for CX healthcare
The values and core components of patient experiences vary slightly depending on different authorities. However, individuality, independence, privacy, partnership, choice, dignity, respect, rights, equality, and diversity, are recognized by most top institutions.
The Picker Institute — a leading international not-for-profit organization — outlines eight values for patient-centered care. They are known as the Principles of Person-Centered Care. Let’s dive into them.
Fast and easy access to reliable healthcare advice
Patients must be able to access the right services at the right time. This includes scheduling appointments, minimal waiting times, and availability of professionals and advice for routine care of unplanned incidents.
Effective treatment by trusted professionals
People should receive clinically appropriate and effective care that meets the patient’s needs and respects their preferences. The relationship must be centered around the patient and inspire trust and confidence as well as transparency and the patient’s involvement in the processes.
Continuity of care and smooth transitions
Patients often journey through different providers, hospitals, care centers, doctors, and professionals. This transition must be smooth and continual, and patients must be informed about how their care is being managed.
Involvement and support for family and carers
When patients’ families want to be involved, they must be welcomed and supported. Professionals offering care must also find support in their institutions.
Clear information, communication, and support for self-care
Information is vital for high-quality care. The information must be accessible, reliable, of high quality, and provided in a timely manner that can be understood. These information standards are essential for people to make informed decisions and manage their care.
Involvement in decisions and respect for preferences
Patients have the right to be involved in and to make decisions about their health and care. The relationship between health professionals, institutions, and patients must be equal, and social and cultural values must be considered.
Emotional support, empathy, and respect
Those providing care must have empathy and respect, and individuals’ emotions must not be engaged.
Attention to physical and environmental needs
Environments where care is provided, must be safe, comfortable, and mindful of particular needs. This environment applies to digital platforms, apps, devices, and others.
Technology at the core of CX operations
Now that the blueprint, values, and concepts have already been laid out, it is time to ask how an organization can deliver these values to its patients and users. The answer is technology.
Patients are increasingly using technology to interact with healthcare providers and take more ownership of their care. From online patient portals to telehealth, remote medical devices, and better patient programs, leading organizations are using technology to build customer loyalty and improve the quality of care.
CX developers must combine and offer different components to create a successful patient experience.
Online patient portals
Online patient portals are a must-have element. From the start, they must be designed with security and privacy at the core. It is through these portals that many of the interactions happen with the patients and users. Portals must be quick, secure, and easy to use. Patients will access their medical records, schedule appointments, and communicate with their providers through these platforms. Customer support through this portal is also essential.
Remote care, which rose exponentially during the pandemic, is still a much-expected feature in healthcare. It not only improves patient experience but also helps free up space in crowded hospitals and care facilities and better manages times for providers and professionals. There are a significant number of services that can be provided at a distance rapidly and efficiently, completely changing the way patients used to approach their health.
Personalized patient experiences
In modern care, patients are no longer names on a sheet or medical chart. Institutions strive to use data and technology to personalize patient experience. This means knowing the patient as much as possible. Technology can be used to collect patient preferences and to provide patients with personalized information and care.
Rewards, incentives, and other programs
Rewards, incentives, and other programs such as workshops or seminars help providers stand out and ensure the patient returns to their facility.
Patient satisfaction tracking
Feedback and communication with the patient about their satisfaction level with the services provided build a more solid relationship and help organizations improve and correct mistakes.
Orchestrating CX digital surfaces to deliver excellence
From hardware to software to devices and more, a health organization may have hundreds or thousands of components making up its digital surface. And all of these components need to be orchestrated with mastery to deliver an excellent CX.
Hardware and software
Hardware needed to build CX experiences in healthcare includes everything from tablets to computers, remote or on-premises medical devices, edge, and data centers. Endpoint and network management are, therefore, critical. Organizations must profile all connected devices and their users, grant and manage accesses and networks, and ensure security, privacy, and performance while preventing systems from becoming siloed.
The software needed in healthcare falls under the same demands. It includes software managing databases, compliance automation, cybersecurity, applications, portals, video conferencing, file sharing, AI and machine learning models, and more. All the hardware and the software must be integrated under a fully managed robust architecture, whether a cloud environment, hybrid cloud, edge cloud, or another model.
AI in CX healthcare and in-house talent
On the other hand, AI is transforming customer loyalty in healthcare in several ways. AI can provide patients with personalized care recommendations, helping them find the care they need more efficiently and stay on track with their treatment plans. AI is also taking an active role in predicting patients’ risks and treatments through predictive analytics.
Finally, while most of the orchestration can be outsourced, healthcare organizations, today more than ever, must have in-house IT teams. Additionally, all staff and professionals must be able to access and leverage the digital architectures to drive a powerful CX experience.
Modern healthcare values, concepts, and innovative technology have become essential for building CX in healthcare, patient-centered care, and customer loyalty. Providers can improve the patient experience and build stronger relationships by using the right approach.
While patient-care experiences are undoubtedly the most challenging CX experiences to design, develop, operate, and maintain, the value they provide to patients, people, and organizations is immense, as the benefits of delivering excellence in healthcare can impact entire communities, cities, and broader regions.