Two out of three consumers say they feel squeezed financially, yet 80% still plan to maintain or increase spending on their health and fitness in the year ahead, an Accenture survey found. However, while healthcare is considered an essential expense, health systems still need to guarantee a seamless, convenient experience—including digitally—to capture those dollars in a competitive market. Key to this effort: eliminating uncertainty from the consumer experience.
Uncertainty in the patient journey can come from many directions, from questions about the costs of care to frustrations about wait times to confusion around Covid-19 protocols and treatment regimens. It’s an area where digital solutions can cut through the guesswork associated with the patient experience by empowering patients with access to medical information, while also heightening transparency into areas like scheduling and costs.
But it takes more than an “app” to provide the experiences consumers seek, especially in an environment where convenience is a competitive differentiator. Here are three ways to eliminate uncertainty for patients at key points in their journey.
- Create a hand-held handholding experience for patients. Across industries, the best solutions not only heighten convenience for customers, but also take the guesswork out of the customer experience. They help consumers navigate each step in the journey, anticipating their needs and responding to them in real time. In healthcare, technology like a mobile platform can provide the highest value by meeting patients where they are during what could be a situation filled with unknowns and making that experience less scary and stressful. It can guide patients from their home to the hospital to the point of care, even saving their parking spot and advising them on where to go to register. After discharge, it can serve as a resource for accessing discharge instructions, checking lab results, or asking follow-up questions.
- Remove the mystery from healthcare billing. Consumers may plan to prioritize healthcare spending in the year ahead, but they are still hesitant to pursue care from a provider when they aren’t sure how it will hit their pocketbook. A recent survey shows 44% of respondents have avoided receiving care due to uncertainty around costs of care, up from 25% a year ago. It’s one reason why leading health systems not only enable consumers to pay their healthcare bill through a mobile app, but also provide the functionality for consumers to receive estimates on out-of-pocket costs, whether through a price calculator or by connecting individuals with the appropriate support. Key to convenience and success: Create a single mobile offering that encompasses all the digital functions you wish to provide, rather than separate apps for bill pay, scheduling, and other functions. This prevents scenarios where multiple apps compete for consumers’ attention. It also facilitates a smoother, more satisfying digital experience.
- Make it easy for people to find a doctor and schedule their appointment. One of the top pain points in the patient experience occurs when people can’t find a physician who meets their needs in the moment—from a primary care physician to an ear, nose and throat specialist, cardiologist or OBGYN—or are unable to schedule an appointment, whether due to lack of availability or overwhelming hassle. For instance, 67% of consumers say they want the ability to schedule or reschedule an appointment online, yet only 37% of providers offer this capability, a KLAS analysis found. These are just some of the reasons why 40% of patients are willing to pay more to get an appointment quickly, while 47% would pay a higher price to see the care provider of their choice. The best approach gives consumers the ability to search for an available provider online, across specialties, and schedule an appointment directly from a mobile app. It also shares wait times for a health system’s urgent care facilities and emergency departments, giving patients the information they need to make decisions about care in the moment—crucial when time is of the essence.
A more modern approach to patient engagement
It’s clear that patients desire digital tools from healthcare providers, but investing in a single feature mobile app alone won’t provide the value they seek. Instead, patients want digital apps with actionable capabilitieslike functions for online scheduling, prescription refill requests and two-way communications with healthcare providers. By focusing on ways to eliminate uncertainty in the patient journey, health systems can more effectively develop digital solutions that enhance convenience, take the guesswork out of the patient experience, and give patients the tools they need to access care and maintain their health.
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