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Patient Experience Matters And the Pandemic Has Improved It

April 12, 2021

The healthcare market is becoming increasingly competitive as patients and families want to become more engaged in their healthcare experiences. The future of the global healthcare industry lies in focusing on the patient experience and quality of care. 

As empowered consumers, patients respond to the options that reflect their personal needs. This includes control over their data and digital access to educational and medical services that help them participate in their own care. Patients increasingly expect diagnostic procedures and treatment paths to be personalized to incorporate their preferences and needs. Whether digitally enabled or geographically convenient, improved access to personalized care is important when patients are looking for a healthcare provider.

Positive patient experiences must be usable and more human

Patient expectations regarding their "experience" have changed dramatically in the last several years. There is still a focus on clinical outcomes, but now patients are looking for engagement and customized and accessible healthcare experiences with their providers to tie in with the strong health outcomes.

The healthcare journey is now in the hands of the patient due to the number of healthcare provider options, the rise in patient feedback tools, and administrators focusing on the overall patient experience. Healthcare leaders need to give some thought to what makes a positive patient care experience, the care delivery, and why they will keep coming back for more. 

Five reasons to create a personalized patient experience:
  • Increasing competition and choice of providers: Patients have plenty of options when selecting healthcare providers and they are willing to change providers due to a poor patient experience.
  • Rise in the number of digital-native consumers: Healthcare consumers are increasingly using mobile devices and online modes of communication. Providers should aim to engage patients based on their personal communication preferences.  
  • Shift to patient-focused care: Patients are looking to providers to add value to their overall well being. 
  • Patient data continues to grow in value: Patient data will contribute to their personal health and longevity of life and can lead to innovations in medical research. It’s also important to keep in mind patient data is confidential and there are certain laws and regulations defining the use and misuse of such data.
  • Healthcare regulations are failing to keep pace: The healthcare industry is rapidly changing and government regulations and guidance are not evolving fast enough; although due to the pandemic, new regulations have been put into place this year to provide greater transparency in coverage and payment experience for patients.

What do healthcare consumers want?

On G2.com, we have seen a marked increase in website traffic, making it clear that consumers and providers are looking for changes in the patient experience landscape. Category traffic for Telemedicine Software, Patient Engagement Software, and Patient Scheduling Software have grown since the start of 2021. 

Category traffic for Telemedicine Software, Patient Engagement Software, and Patient Scheduling Software have grown since the start of 2021

Change is happening but not fast enough to keep up with the demand. Patients want the digital experience to be smoother and more intuitive. Caregivers and clinicians need to focus on creating better patient experience, focusing on patient relationship management, patient safety, patient scheduling, patient engagement, patient intake, and overall patient satisfaction.  

Healthcare consumers are looking for the following when choosing a provider: 
  • Telemedicine
  • Digital intake forms
  • Consistent and clear communications
  • Touchless check-in
  • Minimum wait times
  • Online scheduling 
  • Focus on well being
  • Transparent and accommodating payment options 
  • Security of patient data and personal information

The good news is that the growth has been identified and investments are being made to expand the telemedicine industry. For example, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided 159 firms with a combined funding of $15 million in May 2020, for them to improve their telemedicine services in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity for healthcare leaders to focus on quality improvement, user experience, and the overall experience of care. 

Related: How Cloud Technology Facilitates the Management of Patient Care

Making a quick and lasting pivot to digital health

The healthcare industry quickly pivoted to offer digital-only engagement when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in March 2020. While this was not a planned pivot, it is an opportunity to quickly make updates that were likely years down the line, but long overdue. Healthcare providers responded with digital-only options, such as video appointments, digital patient intake, and robust and user-friendly patient portals, and patients were receptive to these changes. 

Understanding and meeting patient needs with communication and transparency is essential. This is a critical moment for the patients and providers to build relationships and trust that will extend long past the pandemic.

Telehealth has surged following the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a McKinsey report, 76% of patients are now interested in using telehealth for healthcare moving forward, but only 11% were using telehealth in 2019. Providers are also more comfortable with telehealth visits and have rapidly expanded their offerings to fill the gap between need and canceled in-person care. During the pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) temporarily approved 80 new telehealth services, lifted restrictions, and added regulatory flexibilities to increase access to virtual care. 

According to the Telemedicine Market report from Prescient & Strategic Intelligence, the global telemedicine market size was $27.8 billion in 2019, which is expected to grow to $144.2 billion by 2030. This massive growth is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People were advised to only leave the house when absolutely necessary, health care facilities were shut down, and virtual care was the only option. 

Read More: Telemedicine's Critical Role in the COVID-19 Crisis

Thankfully, providers responded to the demand and patients were able to have virtual care for visits such as routine check-ins, physical therapy, mental health therapy, and dermatology. There was also expansion in telemonitoring due to the rising number of chronic diseases and elderly people. Health parameters, such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose level, and body temperature, can now be monitored remotely and sent to the doctor over the internet. Other tools, such as lifestyle and wellness monitoring, online pharmacy, on-demand health services, and self-diagnosis apps have also seen an increase in usage and are expected to continue to see growth. 

The Bain report outlining a transformational change in the healthcare industry across Asia-Pacific finds that there is an opportunity to increase consumer access to digital tools and platforms, including telemedicine. 46% of consumer respondents expect to use telemedicine in the next five years, an increase of 109% from those who use it today. There is also an opportunity for employers and insurance providers to continue to cover digital health services, as 91% of consumers would use digital health if the costs were covered. 

The patient of the future is here now

I am excited to see the evolution of the patient experience landscape. The patient of the future is here now and is demanding a personalized healthcare experience. As a healthcare consumer, I want to be inspired and assisted, and I want quick and easy communication with my care team. The expectations from consumers are high—and we would like to continue seeing easy, safe, and convenient appointments.

Find the best Patient Experience Software, here.

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