The healthcare landscape is shifting substantially. Driven largely by growing competitive and market pressures, shifting regulations, economic headwinds, and heightened consumer expectations, digital innovation in the healthcare industry has moved to the forefront of conversations about how to best serve patients, clinicians, and caregivers. In fact, the Clinician of the Future Report (Elsevier, 2022) revealed 70% of clinicians agree the widespread use of digital health technologies will enable the positive transformation of healthcare. Additionally, Deloitte’s survey of consumer healthcare priorities indicates patients have a clear hierarchy of healthcare needs—from data ownership to personalized care to seamless, intuitive care journeys—and that digital tools are an efficient way to meet those needs (“The Digital Imperative,” Deloitte, 2018).
A move toward digital maturity.
A quick look at how other industries have responded to consumer needs illustrates how much the healthcare industry must do to effectively respond to consumer expectations. Consider how simple it is to order dinner from a smartphone or how convenient it is to check banking balances online. The healthcare experience should be similarly simple and delightful. Patients should be able to easily make appointments, access their medical records digitally, and have a measure of control over their own health experience. Digital engagement with consumers is standard in many industries, and the benefits of ease and accessibility are well understood.
At the 2022 McKinsey Healthcare conference, Sarha London, CEO of Centene, stated, “Patients hold the human risks in healthcare, and they are the least informed. (They) will no longer tolerate the poor experience we provide for them in healthcare.” With 70% of all digital media time coming from mobile app usage (buildfire.com, 2022), the imperative for providers is clear: healthcare consumers expect the convenience of digitally managing their health similarly to how they manage their day-to-day lives.
Consumer experience expectations.
Consumers are interested in a streamlined, intuitive, and easy-to-navigate digital healthcare experience—one that is personalized for their preferred methods of engagement. Health systems must heed this need to generate loyalty and achieve patient retention. And the time to provide that convenience is now. Healthcare access is more critical than ever because of population shifts, lack of availability in underserved communities, and the scarcity of healthcare resources. During the pandemic, hybrid care has emerged as a viable and proven answer to many healthcare industry challenges, but it is not being organized and optimized to better meet patients’ needs and drive better economics for providers.
The pandemic accelerated already developing trends and created more intense needs in various areas. Telehealth, for example, has become a viable and widely accepted form of basic healthcare. But there is a backlog of elective care procedures that were ignored or delayed by patients during the pandemic. The same is true for preventative care and treatments. Patients chose to postpone—or were forced to delay—routine preventative care while COVID protocols were in place. There is an overwhelming need for behavioral health care in today’s world as well. Because of the lack of in-person options during COVID lockdowns, consumers relied more heavily than ever on digital technologies. The industry itself needs to respond to this trend by continuing to deliver the frictionless consumer experiences that patients have come to expect.
Preparing the organization for transformation.
So, how do healthcare organizations rise to the challenge of adopting digital patient-centricity? In order to initiate true and lasting change, organizations must embrace the importance of serving every healthcare stakeholder and must make it an organizational imperative that starts at the top. Alignment requires a commitment and executive mandate. Some foundational steps to begin include:
- Believe that true, meaningful change is possible.
- Prioritize the voice of the consumer, caregiver, and clinician and ensure their needs remain at the forefront of every conversation.
- Determine the value of change and commit to aligned metrics.
- Understand that working with consumers requires a unified, intuitive experience with personalized information that stimulates meaningful engagement.
- Take calculated risks, knowing that maintaining the status quo will result in more organizational and economic stress.
The right time for innovation.
The broad healthcare ecosystem must redefine metrics and economic realities that reward the more efficient delivery and better outcomes realized through hybrid care, rather than penalize a break from old models. With persistent economic pressures in healthcare today, now is the best time to focus on creating better consumer experiences through true innovation. In fact, creating better consumer experiences will enable healthcare systems to reduce financial risk, move forward with new and more efficient models of care, and expand services with a more engaged and loyal audience.