Digital Patient Engagement and the Connection to Patient Experience

07/23/2018 in Blog

For the past decade, it seems as though every year has been touted: “The year of the healthcare consumer!” Or, “The year of consumerism!”  While the healthcare industry has made incremental improvements in how health systems interact with consumers and patients digitally, there are still huge gaps and opportunities to improve. The on-demand economy has changed the way consumers make decisions, including selecting a healthcare provider.  This is why digital patient engagement should be a priority for healthcare marketers.

Reaching consumers outside of the point-of-care

Providence Health & Services published an article last year that states that their goal is to deliver an online experience that is 10 times better than the offline experience for their customers.  Their thought process is that if you are able to successfully engage a patient online, it is much easier to re-engage them on a continual basis throughout their patient journey.

Since the average patient visits a doctor 2.7 times per year, engagement must occur beyond face-to-face interactions.  How can we best assist patients to reach their healthcare goals outside of the point-of-care? With consumers expecting timely, personalized information, it is important that health systems are capturing real-time data to provide relevant communications that can guide their decisions and improve their experience.  In fact, a survey by Black Book Market Research stated that 90% of patients no longer feel obligated to stay with healthcare providers that don’t deliver an overall satisfactory digital experience. 88% of respondents under age 40 state they will choose their next medical provider based on a strong online presence.  Read: Creating a Model Online Presence

Having a marketing automation system that details how consumers have interacted with your health system and what their risks and needs are.  By gaining a deep understanding of consumer preferences and potential health conditions, you can provide appropriate content during any interaction.

Customer Journey Mapping

One way that health systems are working to improve the patient experience is by spending time outlining the entire patient experience through Customer Journey Mapping.  Many healthcare marketing teams have built out personas of their key audiences, but the next step is to take those personas and determine how and when they will interact with your health system.  This determines the appropriate content and ensures that it is easy and worthwhile for them to continue moving through their journey.

Even determining how long a consumer or patient has been at a certain stage of their journey can impact the type of content they should receive. Someone who is researching a health topic for the first time is in a very different mindset than those who have been researching for several months and still deciding if they should meet with a doctor. Having technology that can support this type of segmentation is becoming more and more critical as patient expectations and decision-making continue to evolve.

Paving the way for the ideal patient experience

Over the past few years at conferences and meetings, we’ve probably all heard the phrase, “the Uber of healthcare” thrown out there. In my mind, this is an unrealistic comparison as Uber changed an entire industry very quickly. For those of us who have worked in healthcare, we know it is highly unlikely that there will be that dramatic of a shift in the way that health systems engage with and provide care for their patients.

Instead, an incremental approach is needed. It seems like we are in the middle of the first wave of change with more and more health systems leveraging CRM systems, marketing automation tools, and data-driven approaches. However, there are still huge gaps within organizations where operations is not tied to marketing and a patient has a disjointed experience with the health system.

To continue to improve digital engagement, it will take not only improved technology choices, but numerous teams and stakeholders within health systems to align all aspects the patient journey.  Although we’re a part of the healthcare industry, we also have needs as patients and have probably experienced a less than optimal experience. We know that if one aspect of our journey is disconnected, it can cause frustration and angst. As the industry continues to evolve, it will take more than incremental improvements to truly satisfy our patients.  Read more: Innovate from the Inside-Out: Investing in the Patient Experience