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Does Healthcare Serve Consumers or Patients?

by Alex Lennox-Miller | November 23, 2021

Diverging Strategies Emerge to Tackle Satisfaction, Experience, and Engagement

Despite being one of the central pillars of the IHI Triple Aim, the patient experience has remained difficult to effectively manage. It’s hard to know which of the variety of available measurements are tracking what a healthcare provider truly wants to improve, or what might be responsible for changes in patient experience ratings. Now, many vendors and offerings are trying to replicate the consumer experience in healthcare with new patient-centric capabilities.

In an upcoming report on the customer experience in healthcare, we’ll look at how the consumer and patient experiences are best defined; how vendors are applying UI/UX (design thinking), interactive tools and education, AI/ML, and workflow changes to produce the desired experiences; and what buyers are looking for from the products they deploy.

Key Takeaways

  • Satisfaction, Experience, and Engagement are all important parts of the patient interaction to measure, but they shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Understanding what each measure means and what an organization is trying to improve is essential to understanding what tools to use.
  • An improved patient experience has an impact throughout a healthcare organization. It boosts patient retention, engagement, recruitment, and clinical outcomes (i.e. quality).
  • Consumers and Patients aren’t the same thing, and neither are consumer and patient experiences. Duplicating a consumer experience might not produce the desired outcomes for some healthcare organizations. See our recent Research Brief for more information and one perspective on this crucial question.

What I will be Covering in this Research

The modern consumer experience is easy, on-demand, consumer directed, and interactive. It is responsive to consumer profiles, histories, and needs. Consumers want – and expect – services and products to be available when they discover or experience the need for them, to be convenient and simple to access, to “know” them and their history, to be available in discrete and specific interactions, and to be responsive and flexible to their circumstances.

In contrast, the modern patient experience is often complicated and frustrating, with redundant activities and vastly extended timeframes. There have been a great many attempts to resolve these issues, some approaching individual parts of the patient experience, like payment or scheduling, some trying to provide a more manageable or simpler clinical interaction, and others trying to provide an entirely new type of service altogether. In this report, we’ll focus on solutions and vendors that:

1. Satisfy patient healthcare needs within its own workflow loop. That is, not purely intermediary solutions or a component piece of a larger healthcare interaction.

2. Are at least partially patient-directed. These are solutions where patients can engage with a solution or provider to resolve direct healthcare needs.

3. Are available on-demand. Patients are increasingly demanding access to healthcare whenever they need it, regardless of time of day or appointment status.

Issues to Address

It’s important to understand and address the serious barriers and difficulties in what patients are starting to expect. Increased access to care leads almost universally to increased consumption of care, making costs higher and making critical issues of provider burnout and workflow burden even worse. We’ll look at how vendors and providers are approaching these issues.

Strategies range from the new models of virtual primary care presented by groups like Firefly Health or Oscar, the use of AI/ML conversational engines and chatbots to act as an intermediary between providers and patients, to hybrid models like Amazon Care, Oak Street Health, and Carbon Health that combine in-person appointments, remote encounters, and home technology. We’ll explore how different strategies approach questions of ongoing use and patient retention, their business models in a constantly shifting reimbursement environment, and how they’re producing both clinical and revenue outcomes.

Consumers vs Patients

Ultimately the question may come down to whether it’s better to be providing healthcare to consumers, or an improved experience to patients. That’s more than just a question of semantics. It’s turning into a fundamental question of design intent, UI/UX, and the outcomes and activities a solution intends to promote.

In a recent Research Brief, we looked at some of the differences between consumer and patient approaches, but it remains to be seen what model will end up producing the best results for patients, providers, and organizations. Is it an on-demand, as-needed approach, providing “what a consumer wants, when they want, at the lowest cost possible?” Is it an omnichannel strategy with the goal of reducing the amount of burden on patients and providers as possible? More likely, it’s a combination of the two, reducing workload as much as possible to enable providers to engage in the hands-on, patient-centric care they actually want to provide.

Do you think you have the answer, or a product that fits our research? Get in touch!

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