Digitizing the Customer Focus – A Key for US Healthcare (Part 1 of 2)

 In Healthcare and Life Sciences


(The topic is covered in a series of 2 parts. Part 1 talks about the challenges in US healthcare. Part 1 also talks about ‘Customer Experience’; a significant area of focus for better customer engagement, satisfaction and outcomes. Part 2 will be about another focus area which is ‘Outcome based Quality Care’)

A business exists in this world, primarily to provide services or to create products for customers to make their life easier and better. The healthcare industry is no different. Like every enterprise in the world though, their primary goal is to provide quality products and services to their customers and thus grow their market position.  How to do this? Process, technology, operation, are but a few of the means to achieve the primary goal.

In U.S., each time we see, read, or hear the word ‘Healthcare’, we almost immediately think about the cost associated with it. In 2014, U.S. healthcare spending reached $3 trillion, which is about $9,523 per person.  Healthcare spends accounted for almost 17.5% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. In spite of the huge healthcare costs, the quality of healthcare, while often considered the best in the world, it can also be incredibly inconsistent and frustratingly inefficient.  The readmission, mortality, and hospital acquired infection rates are high, and the emphasis is more on the curative care rather than the preventive care.

To mitigate these challenges, there has been a major paradigm shift in U.S. healthcare. The shift is towards consumerism and value-based payment and delivery.  With this shift, there is more focus on customer engagement, satisfaction, and quality of care than ever before and with that healthcare enterprises must transform in order to keep pace. Digitization is the key to transformation and achieving the end goal.

In this blog series, I’m going to talk about two significant areas where digitization can lead to a better customer engagement, satisfaction and outcomes. In the first part, I will be covering ‘Customer Experience’ and in the second part of the series, I will be talking about the significance of ‘Outcome based Quality Care’.

Customer Experience

It’s an old saying but it’s truer today than ever before, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. The customer experience needs to “wow” right from the beginning. Customers today are demanding, they expect information on their schedule and they expect to get it easily. With that in mind the customer experience you deliver is all about knowing your customers and managing your touch points effectively.

 “Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” ~ Kevin Stirtz

Why it is important?

Consumers are going digital. The data back this up:

  • Millennials – it always comes back to millennials – those people born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, are the largest generation in the U.S., representing one-third of the total U.S. population in 2013.
  • 46 million unique users accessed apps in fitness & health in January 2014.
  • The global mHealth market is expected to be worth $49.1 billion by 2020, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 49.7 percent over the next six years. The market in 2012 was valued at $1.2 billion.
  • From 2013 to 2015, consumers’ use of technology to measure fitness and health improvement goals has grown from 17% to 28%.
  • Among consumers with major chronic conditions, tech-based monitoring has jumped from 22% to 39% in the last two years. More than 60% of technology users say that utilizing health technologies has had a significant impact on their behavior.

Moreover, as a part of Hospital Value-Based Purchasing program (HVBP), incentive payments to health organizations are determined based on patient satisfaction scores (30%) and improved clinical outcomes (70%).  Customer experience during the entire healthcare episode plays a vital role in patient satisfactions scores.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the existence of public and private market places has increased both the complexity and the competiveness of the insurance market. As a result, there is a shift towards transparency of price and quality. Hence, it is of utmost importance for the insurance companies to grow and retain members.

Moreover, the increased level of consumer engagement in knowing about the options of care, treatment provided, available insurance options, wellness initiatives and so on during an entire episode of care, may result in better health outcomes.

Will these new buzzwords – Digitization & IoT help improve customer experience?

Wise use of technology disruption can enhance customer experience and result in effective customer engagement and satisfaction. The Internet of Things (IoT) can play a pivotal role here.

Imagine a customer getting a call from the care manager regarding irregular heartbeats; it was detected by a blue tooth enabled wearable device and transferred to a healthcare cloud via a mobility application. Or a customer getting a reminder on their smart watch to take medication.  Think about remote consulting through kiosks or apps connected to various Bluetooth enabled medical devices. Imagine a customer getting cashback reward points for running 2 miles a day which is validated by the wearable device.

That’s just the start. As you’d expect, there has been a rise in the online insurance tools and mobile apps. They suggest the best plans based on customer needs and allows customer to compare amongst multiple plan options. It also allows customer to search for providers, use the price transparency tools, view quality ratings, schedule an appointment and so on.

The possibilities are endless; just digitizing all aspects of interactions with customers, however, does not enhance the overall experience. Not all customers will have the same level of interest and skill level in interacting with kiosks, apps, and devices. They may require human intervention. As a result, it is all about identifying and managing an optimal balance of human and digital (machine based) touch points with the customer to enhance their experience.

In next part, we will see another area (‘Outcome based Quality Care’) of focus for healthcare enterprises.

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