The concept of ‘consumer experience’ is not limited to certain industries anymore. Patients today expect more convenience than ever before and the healthcare industry is also acknowledging as well as embracing the importance of ‘patient experience’. Hence the emphasis on medical convenience is the need of the hour.
The patient experience includes all their communications within the healthcare system. Healthcare providers are now focused on understanding the patient journey and challenges to provide the best care.
There are a number of factors contributing to the quality of healthcare in every country. Some key and universal factors are mentioned below.
Ease of Data Access
The majority of Healthcare organizations are considering or have invested in software that enables access to a centralized database digitally, for relevant patient data, without having to rely on obsolete paper filing systems or following a long chain of communication.
Working under old-fashioned systems can lead to wastefulness, mistakes, and most importantly a poor patient experience. Implementation of the latest technology makes the patient experience smoother and increases the efficiency of healthcare staff by making them less likely to make human errors.
When choosing the appropriate technology, management needs to identify their needs and ensure that they are supported, explore the option of customization specific to their organization, and not try to fit into the technology. They must also be aware and explore the existing and trending technologies being used in their industry.
Enhancing Digital Experience
A strong digital presence of healthcare providers makes it easier for patients to find doctors and schedule appointments online. Ease of access and booking appointment sets the tone for the entire patient experience.
Management of Digital customer experience is about recognizing how people interact with your brand online and leveraging insights from website experiences as a means to improve the patient experience.
For patients, website experience is an important factor in deciding to use a brand and recommending it to others. Healthcare organizations need to build an emotional connection with their users and let their customers provide feedback, and respond promptly and constructively to it.
Quality of Administrative Efficiency
Healthcare is progressing and offering personalized care to patients is becoming a norm. Hospitals and healthcare systems are concentrating on enhancing the quality of care and minimizing costs where possible.
Administrative costs constitute a large part of the healthcare expenditure and they are a necessary support system for both patients and healthcare facilities. Patients only want their experience to be smooth and efficient. It makes no difference to them how the healthcare facility is organized or how they communicate internally, as long as the patient doesn’t suffer.
The management of hospitals and such facilities must explore ways to improve operational efficiency so that they can remain patient-centric while maintaining reasonable costs.
The Human Connection
This is an age-old concept that will never go out of style. The importance of building a human connection cannot be undermined. All patients wish to be treated like people, identified for their individual personalities and not by their illness or injury. As healthcare professionals or service providers, one must remember that patients are often scared, confused, and need compassion. Patients are always motivated more by a personalized interaction.
As a patient ourselves at some point in life, we can easily understand the importance of a simple smile and eye contact, which has the power to relax us instantly and make us feel that we are being understood. It doesn’t take much effort or time to build a human connection but it means the world to a patient and magnifies the positivity of their experience.
Research by Deloitte shows a direct relationship between patient experience and higher hospital profitability. It was noted that the nurse-patient engagement was strongly associated with a good patient experience and contributed immensely in increasing customer loyalty, building and improving the reputation of the brand, and boosting utilization of hospital services due to word of mouth and referrals.
This was validated further by an analysis conducted by Deloitte Center for Health Solution on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores.
This clearly establishes that better patient interaction improves patient experience that increases profitability.
As healthcare systems recognize the importance of patient experience, they also realize that the key instruments to achieving this are their human resources.
The objective of achieving a patient-centric approach, administrative efficiency, and world-class service-oriented team, is often challenged by burnout, lack of resources, and employee apathy. Hence it makes sense to start focusing on improving the organizational culture and allocating resources towards employee engagement and satisfaction.
To achieve success financially, clinically, and as a community, hospitals need to facilitate workforce empowerment. It may not be enough to provide the necessary tools that enable the best care. Hospitals may benefit from creating a culture that instills feelings of inclusion, safety, value, and empowerment.
The Impact of COVID
COVID has affected healthcare significantly and has pushed healthcare providers to adopt a more patient-centered approach and recalibrate processes accordingly.
A common goal among healthcare systems is to limit physical interactions between patients and healthcare providers. This has resulted in an increase in virtual consultations, which has accelerated the digital evolution in healthcare. Patients are benefiting from the convenience of logging in for a virtual appointment from home. The commute and waiting time for a doctor visit have been removed from the equation, thus virtual consultations have saved patients time and physical effort.
Hospitals were already moving towards a digital transformation, but due to COVID this gained speed and led the hospitals and clinics to create a more patient-friendly experience, by making the processes simpler, faster, and comfortable.
Linking Technology & Humanity to Improve Patient Experience
Patient Experience has been recognized as a key element contributing to the success of healthcare systems. With emerging patient demands and expectations along with the challenges faced in health services due to COVID, technology and digitization have aided the transition in a big way.
However, just enabling the patients and staff with the necessary tools and technology is not enough. Healthcare needs to help engage employees, and shape the work culture accordingly. Along with patients, even the employees are struggling with adapting to the new normal. Employees need to retain their empathy while handholding the patients during each step towards this change. These efforts will help provide the highest quality of care while minimizing costs and inefficiencies to a great extent.
Healthcare is made great together by all stakeholders. It is driven by a common passion towards achieving excellence in patient care by evolving with times yet maintaining the human connection.
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