Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (that is, before the internet), here’s how people made travel plans: they would call up a bunch of airlines, wait on hold, painstakingly jot down flight times and prices, call back their chosen airline hoping the flight would be still available, and finally give their credit card number to a customer service rep. Fingers were then crossed that the tickets would arrive in the mail before the departure date.
Fortunately, online ordering, via aggregator websites like Expedia and Kayak, has made booking a trip a breeze. When it comes to healthcare, however, it’s a different story. Too often, for too many people, finding the right care and the right provider online can be a challenge. In fact, before the onset of the COVID pandemic, 73% of patients said it’s easier to go to the emergency room than figure out how to navigate a health system’s website and find the appropriate care for their condition.
Providence’s Digital Innovation Group is looking at how Expedia-like aggregator websites can better connect patients to the care they need. Digital innovators, within health systems or at technology companies, can play a key role in making this kind of online healthcare experience a reality. The ideal digital healthcare platform would be transparent, all-in-one, and easy-to-use, with the following features:
Smart navigation. It’s not easy for patients to keep up with the array of care choices before them. A successful health system platform would address this shortcoming by simplifying the navigation experience. On a single web page, patients could choose to receive care at home, in a clinic, or virtually, delivered by an RN or an MD. The nature of the visit could be selected as well, such as whether the visit is diagnostic or treatment-oriented, or brief or in-depth. In addition, patients would get transparent pricing and be able to order products and services. Above all, such a platform would enable patients to access care how and when they want it.
Care options. Virtual care (also known as telehealth or remote care) was already happening before the arrival of the coronavirus, but the pandemic has made virtual care commonplace. For patients, going virtual means being able to get care regardless of where they live, or where their provider is — all that’s required is an internet connection. Moreover, virtual care offers patients different modalities of care, such as video, chat, or voice, and it can be accessed on-demand, through a scheduled interaction, or asynchronously, where providers and patients communicate independently. For health systems, the challenge will be how to integrate their virtual care options and how to make the consumer experience a positive one.
Engagement and personalization. As healthcare products and services grow more numerous, there’s a risk some patients may become overwhelmed and fall through the cracks. This is why the health platform of the future must engage with patients about their health — even between visits — through highly personalized, relevant outreach. Eventually, the platform could become a digital hub for other apps, services, and devices, which would benefit patients and potentially turn into a new source of revenue for health systems.
Being able to find and compare healthcare services online, selecting caregivers by area of expertise, scheduling visits online, understanding pricing before services are rendered — these and other improvements ultimately create a better patient experience and can lead to better care outcomes. There’s a benefit to the bottom line, too. Accenture found that when hospitals deliver “superior” customer service, in their patients’ estimation, they see a 50% increase in net margins compared to “average” hospitals. So, a huge opportunity exists for health systems and digital entrepreneurs to serve both patients and providers through technology innovation.
You can read about the Digital Innovation Group’s latest research on digital healthcare platforms in a new, free report, “Distributed Care & Digital Health Acceleration.” It’s part of the group’s COVID-19 Digital Insight Series, which features a growing library of reports on how the pandemic is shaping the future of healthcare. The entire series is available for download at no charge in the group’s Resource Center.