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The future of patient / customer experience

Posted April 20, 2021 - Updated March 8, 2022
The Future of Patient / Customer Experience (CX)

The pandemic has heightened the need for improved communication and personalized interactions in the healthcare industry. To address this, many organizations are using technology to improve the customer experience (CX), cultivate loyalty and boost customer satisfaction.

A Virtual Think Tank article, The Future of Patient/Customer Experience (CX), unpacks many of these trends and offers solutions to organizations facing difficult challenges, such as gaining access to data and getting patient consent. The article stems from a Frost & Sullivan virtual panel conducted in partnership with TELUS International. During the panel, executives from leading healthcare organizations Medtronic, Conifer Health Solutions and BlueCross BlueShield North Carolina gathered to discuss different strategies around how to improve the customer and patient experience.

From automation to analytics, healthcare companies have plenty of exciting opportunities to enhance their digital CX options. They’re experimenting with them right now to meet changing consumer preferences and reassure anxious consumers. That has certainly been the experience of Deepali Narula, vice-president of patient services at Conifer Health Solutions: “We had to actually change in terms of what we have learned and how we saw patient behavior.”

Read on for specific findings and be sure to download the full report here.

Meeting increased demand for telehealth

Before COVID-19, providers often viewed telehealth as a less desirable option than an in-person experience. Concerns about efficacy, reimbursement, security and a widespread unfamiliarity with the technology were rampant. Now, however, healthcare organizations are embracing telehealth and other ways to virtually communicate with patients — especially in a society where convenient, easy-to-use digital tools are commonplace across many other industries.

As a result, there’s more of a push to provide self-service, like bots and searchable knowledge bases to answer basic ‘how to’ questions. Further, healthcare organizations are increasingly reviewing the customer experience on the clinical side as well as the administrative side, allowing for more remote interactions and self-service experiences. At the onset of the pandemic, for example, when elective surgeries were being canceled, healthcare organizations needed to be sure that they had the resources to reach and reschedule anxious patients.

“Given the current circumstances, we have to find alternative ways to connect with our patients and make sure that they’re accessing healthcare in the way that they want and need at this time,” says Michael Spencer, senior director of patient access operations at Conifer Health Services.

Delivering convenient automated solutions with a human touch

Providers must keep in mind that digitizing the patient-provider relationship can cause friction among patients who desire a more human connection.

Jeff Anglin, director of customer experience design at Medtronic, says that empathy and patient-centered care are still top of mind, even when interacting remotely.

“What many customers might not get from other entities, they need to get from us,” he says. “Our loyal customers are with us not necessarily because of our technology. They’re with us because of our caring for them.”

One way to show empathy is to offer customers choices, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. Narula says that Conifer offers customers the option of receiving text messages, voice calls or a combination of both. Another strategy to personalize the patient experience is offering digital tools to manage aspects of their care, from their appointments to how to prepare for a procedure.

Companies should also consider how certain demographics have specific needs and preferences regarding digital tools. “One thing that we have seen since COVID is a good, positive uptick in mental health services in the Latino community,” says Robert Gofourth, vice-president of operations strategy and performance at BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina. More translation services and education can be used to strengthen support for those groups who need other forms of assistance.

In addition, automation can be used to support a positive patient experience, and many companies are using it to solve some of the industry’s pain points, such as prior authorization. “Automation opportunities can bridge the divide that sometimes exists between provider and payor,” Spencer says. “Things like prior authorization automation is something that has been a hot topic for quite some time. That is and continues to be on our radar, something that we want to tackle.”

Next wave of CX in healthcare

One big challenge in healthcare is siloed information and various regulations that impede data collection. Gaining patient consent to use the data will be crucial in navigating these obstacles.

“It’s a bit of a challenge on the healthcare side in general because of the way we get the data,” Narula says. “There are [many] different sources, and a big part of it has been, ‘Let’s get the data in a format that we can actually use to drive insights.’”

In the future, experts expect data aggregation and analytics to continue to improve the quality of the patient experience by making it more individualized and personalized. The healthcare organizations that embrace digital tools are the ones who will improve their competitive position and build a more seamless CX experience for their patients.

For full details and insights from these CX leaders, download the full article here!

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