Today, we examine telehealth strategy for an in-depth look at this 2021 customer experience trend. As we continue our conversation about why telehealth is here to stay in 2021, we look at how thinking strategically empowers providers and health systems to put the patient at the center of their operations.
And we tackle some of the challenges that come with healthcare design of the future. We’re looking at prioritizing experience to overcome the challenges that come with transitioning from in-person to virtual care visits. And sharing how to combat operational inefficiencies as we navigate the new terrain of healthcare.
Think About Telehealth Strategy
Approach telehealth with a clear patient strategy in mind. Do not just do it to do it. As a rule of thumb, if you start with the patient’s needs and wants, you will most probably meet them. And if you do not, you will miss them.
Think about what patients do and do not have access to before you design experiences for them. A patient population in a low-income area with spotty internet service (if any!) may not USE your telehealth option. However, the same group of people will PREFER a virtual visit to an in-person visit if they are hourly employees for whom waiting two hours to give blood for an annual physical means losing real money.
Once you have patient experience strategy in place, you can design patient journeys that meet your patients’ needs. Why? Because you took the time to learn them.
Yes, this involves more work. Yes, your ROI will take two years instead of one. But you will be doing your job.
Need an example to show why you may have to wait for the ROI? And why you need to do it anyway? Look at technology within the context of patient-centered strategy. As a rule, no single technology solution should be implemented for ALL use cases. Technology that works for everyone the same way does not exist.
Before moving forward, prioritize user experience research, customer experience design, and feedback collection. Currently, most of the focus is on outcomes measurement, cost tracking, and overall collection of evidence. Although each of these is important, it is equally important to design the future experience of receiving care from the viewpoint of the receiver as well as the giver.
Without completing this exercise, you risk designing an episode of care while maintaining a poor end to end patient experience. We must break down the siloed implementations of diverse technology solutions in the operation that do not communicate with each other. The success of telehealth and its adoption (by patients and providers) depends on seamless experience design, especially in the transitions between in-person and virtual care.
Experience Design for In-Person and Virtual Care Transitions
What does that mean? Well, when a patient makes a pediatric appointment on Zocdoc, for example, there is an electronic check-in email to the child’s parent/guardian. The parent or guardian fills in these intake forms electronically before ever stepping foot in the pediatrician’s office. A seamless experience means the front office does not hand those same forms to the parent/guardian when they do visit the office. Yet, this happens all the time.
See, experience design, like patient experience strategy, is about mapping various scenarios, not sketching out only one. It is about designing for the “what ifs.” And despite the number of times we see it, experience design is never about designing for the one (easiest) experience.
If you are integrating your EHR system with Zocdoc as your front door, do it for all the use cases that might happen. Not just one. Integrate so the front desk team can access all available information. Plan for a scenario in which an older person comes in, but their child made the appointment. Plan for the scenario in which the patient is a newborn, but the parent needs to act as the patient to complete certain parts of the process. If the person who made the appointment already exists in your system, but with a different email, plan for that.
See what I just did? I thought through human scenarios. And laid them out for us. If I can do it, so can you. All you need to do is CARE. Caring helps you avoid bad experiences and operational complexities. Spend some real time with the front desk of the practice. See who walks through the doors, and take notes.
Once you have done this, do the same with the internal stakeholders of your solution. Talk with everyone from the physicians to the billing department. Only then, will you know what information each team needs to welcome the patient properly and create the seamless experience we are all hoping to get. Only then, can the simple (and necessary) task of issuing an invoice take less than 21 clicks and 5 screen changes!
Operational Efficiency and Patient Safety in the Telehealth Environment: Design with Empathy for Healthcare Professionals and Patients
Operational efficiency and patient safety are hefty goals for telehealth. Both are attainable with the right IT design. Let’s take a look at patient alerts. In their current state, by and large, they are a disaster. Without taking the time to dive deeper and document the day-to-day of the end users, many things can go wrong. Just yesterday a patient arrived at a PCP clinic with an alert for the wrong physician.
Internal system alerts are facing the same user experience challenges. A simple example of this is using the same sound and visuals for all alerts, regardless of their type. Without anything to differentiate one from another, all alerts have the same weight. And, over time, the important ones get ignored.
Also in the alerts scenario, in the design phase, you may have incorrectly assumed the healthcare representative has time for that extra work at the moment you designed it to be delivered. When you fail to observe your end user and document those observations prior to design, you remove empathy from experience design. You oversimplify (and in the worst cases, invalidate) their jobs. The cost of this? Low adoption of your product, physician burnout, and unhappy patients.
When you think about it, could you expect any other outcome? If you do not respect the end user enough to ask for their input, why should they respect your product enough to use it?
In many ways, this is the fundamental questions we must keep in mind to ensure the proper adoption and implementation of telehealth across the healthcare landscape. Using technology, thinking strategically, and designing empathetically create a path forward for an industry that needs to put the patient at the center. And for the patients and providers who deserve to meet each other on that path.