Healthcare, as an industry, has always been relatively resistant to disruptive changes, bogged down as it is by regulatory barriers and its own limited comfort with the latest innovations in technology. This has rendered healthcare a laggard in terms of customer experience compared to industries like retail and banking. Patient experience is neither a hallmark of the industry nor were the players focusing on the same — until now.
Digital healthcare has only now begun to genuinely transform patient experience. Healthcare is getting personal, shifting from treatments designed for populations to solutions serving individual patients with Big Data already becoming an expectation of the consumers. A recent report by PwC states that 49% of healthcare providers place patient experience among their organization’s top three priorities in the next five years. By and large, the following six major trends will drive the patient experience in 2018, as patients become co-managers of their care and occupy the center stage in the healthcare value chain:
- Smart hospitals: Using connectivity and automation, smart tools improve patient comfort and alleviate some of the pressure on healthcare providers. Smart technology comes in a variety of forms to increase comfort and efficiency and decrease risks. Smart beds that self-adjust to the correct pressure and provide support specific to a patient’s preferences and condition will become more commonplace. Clinics will increase usage of robots in healthcare systems that can monitor a patient without human intervention. Augmented reality (AR) can transform patient diagnosis by having treatment options pop up on a screen as the doctor examines the patient in modern healthcare systems. Doctors can, therefore, cut down on time spent reading studies and instead refine their skills on the go as they seamlessly treat patients.
- Wellness tracking – beyond wearables: The wearables revolution is now changing from a largely lifestyle-focused trend to an impactful patient experience driver for healthcare providers. New, highly capable medical wearables are aimed at medication adherence, diabetes coaching, and pregnancy tracking which, along with more collaborative EMRs, can expose the wellness data to significantly more care providers, generating better insights. Instead of having to go to a clinic for monitoring, patients can do it at home through digital healthcare and always be connected to a doctor. If a monitored patient’s blood pressure spikes, the doctor can receive a notification and take action. According to Frost and Sullivan, 47% of consumers would consider using wearables in the near future. Wearable devices have given rise to a less invasive way to get great care in digital healthcare.
- Patient personalization: With loads of digital healthcare data coming in for each and every patient, be it from wearables, feedback forms, pre-visit questionnaires, or simply visit behaviors, the ability to create a personalized patient experience for every customer is no longer elusive. Providers will be able to see what doctors a patient prefers, whether they prefer remote or in-person care, their health history and any potential health issues. Care providers can even study what days and times are the busiest, so they can accordingly staff their clinics.
- Collaborative EMRs: Providers are taking cues from social networks and developing more information-rich and frictionless models for implementing patient portals. Such collaborative scenarios are throwing up opportunities particularly in the EMR space by enabling a single view of the patient’s medical information across providers. InputHealth, founded in 2011, has created a new type of EMR system where patients, clinicians, and the entire healthcare team can work together to deliver care. Unlike traditional EMRs which are essentially mainframes with a UI slapped on top, InputHealth was created from the ground up to have a modern, 21st century look and feel.
- Healthcare communities: Online communities belonging to the digital systems have proven to be highly effective for specific diseases or conditions (CureTogether and PatientsLikeMe). Providers can integrate such communities — or build their own — to improve the overall patient support system and adherence to treatment by providing a conducive environment of similar patients that are farther ahead in treatment.
- Opt-in Population Health: Contextual data analytics poses privacy and regulatory issues in the healthcare space. But the industry has steadily chipped away at the issues, and is increasingly creating ways for patients to opt-in their data across healthcare systems, services, and apps. Currently, Population Health drives over $50 billion in healthcare M&A.
As the pace of advances in digital healthcare begins to catch up with the overall technology industry, it’s clear that healthcare providers will have to take significant steps forward in the art of the possible in the patience experience. According to a Healthcareitnews.com report, population health and patient engagement has been the focus of CIOs of major hospital systems in the US. The trends above are good, middle-of-the-road improvements that can quickly lead to a significantly transformed, overall patience experience. Smart providers will, therefore, look to proactively disrupt their own patient experience with these capabilities before their competition can. Only then can the fruits of ‘digital’ be reaped to the fullest.