Think Outside the Doctor’s Office with New Tech

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With digital technology becoming more invasive in everyday life, doctors can now use a variety of tools to improve their patients lives.

The healthcare customer experience is rooted in the patient-provider connection. A recent Gallup poll found that U.S. citizens rank nurses, pharmacists and doctors as the top three most honest and ethical professions. But while this trust serves as a solid foundation, patient-provider relationships are only as strong as the lines of communication between these two groups.

As countless industries turn to digital communication methods and data-driven personalization to connect with their customers on a personal level, healthcare insurers and providers have room for growth. A recent study by business and technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners found that 85% of healthcare insurers aren’t confident they have the right technology in place to evolve their customers’ experience.

Considering that tech-savvy Millennials (individuals between the ages of 18 and 35) are the largest living generation in the U.S., providers will need to quickly digitize their communication methods to attract and retain this incoming customer base. With instant communication becoming the norm and a growing number of industries leveraging big data to deliver personalized customer experiences, the next generation of healthcare consumers has come to expect innovative types of customer service that many healthcare providers haven’t yet prepared for.

Based on the results of West Monroe Partners’ healthcare customer experience study, which surveyed more than 1,300 healthcare consumers and gathered perspectives from healthcare insurance executives, here are five ways healthcare providers and insurers can strengthen the patient-provider connection in the height of the digital age:

Embrace Digital Communication

Health providers and insurers can’t ignore the indisputable connection between consumer satisfaction and the availability of digital communication channels. According to consumer respondents, providers that offer an online portal earn a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 13, compared to a -28 NPS for those who do not.

Regardless, 83% of health insurers still use a phone to connect with their customers. While many have come accustomed to these methods, these insurers neglect to address what customers channels actually want — West Monroe’s study also found that 86% of consumers who have access to online portals use these platforms for some or all of their communication with their healthcare provider, and two-thirds of patients whose provider doesn’t offer a portal say they want one.

Still, healthcare providers are gradually understanding the importance of digital communication channels and are starting to adapt. Online scheduling and email follow-ups are steps toward paperless office interactions, which will eventually become the norm.

Mobile Apps: The Key to Breaking Down Patient-Provider Barriers

Online portals are just the first step toward cultivating the digital customer experience, with mobile apps on the rise. Ninety-one percent of healthcare consumers use their provider’s mobile apps when available, and 80% of customers who have communicated with their provider real-time via a mobile app prefer this method to a traditional office visit.

These apps allow providers to deliver clear and concise information to users who are growing accustomed to instant information retrieval and communication. Thirty-one percent of consumers have used a healthcare mobile app to communicate with their provider in real-time about a specific condition over the past two years. Considering patients’ expectations to receive an immediate response anytime and anywhere, it’s easy to understand how 80% of this group prefers mobile communication to a traditional office visit.

Security Must be a Top Priority

As the healthcare industry has gradually gone digital over the past few years, an alarming number of cyberattacks have followed. More than 100 million healthcare records were compromised last year, according to an IBM report. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that West Monroe’s study found less than half of consumers (48%) completely trust their provider with their personal information.

Healthcare insurers and providers must not forget the importance of protecting their patients’ confidential data as they expand their digital presence. Providers must make adequate investments in cybersecurity programs with regard to data privacy and regulatory compliance to keep their patients secure. Over time, with adequate security checks and balances in place, insurers can win back patients’ trust.

Use Data to Improve Outcomes, Emphasize Personalization

Today, it’s a necessity for insurers and providers to have access to precise, real-time patient data and insights. Current technologies that support business processes are still highly disparate and “siloed.” The data “walls” that exist across payers, providers and pharmacy need to be broken, and the ability to share member information across the care spectrum should be leveraged in the healthcare decision-making process as the industry attempts to improve clinical outcomes and lower costs.

Aggregation of data across the ecosystem can also enable the ability to personalize the consumer’s experience and tailored reward programs. Roughly 70% of healthcare insurers currently offer rewards programs built around consumers sharing data collected from their health tracking devices and apps. At the same time, 92% of healthcare insurers send tailored messages to customers.

However, it’s not a “one size fits all” solution. Personalized multi-channel engagement goes beyond the message. Current consumer populations (individual, group, government product users) each have unique needs and desired experiences that should be accounted for when designing the engagement model. From that understanding, the right message can be delivered, at the right time, through the desired channel and assist with addressing care and cost challenges.

To acquire customer data, insurers need to adequately tap into consumer incentives. Thirty-eight percent of healthcare consumers would be willing to give up more personal information for better rates, and 26% would share more for better service. Though many insurers have grown accustomed to providing gift cards and rewards points to gather patient data, they should shift their thinking to identify and address customers’ true motivations.

As technology becomes embedded in healthcare, the industry will become a two-way street. Customers are no longer satisfied with one-off brand relationships that are transactional in nature. Thanks to the rise in instant mobile communication and data-driven personalization, patients’ expectations have increased. By adapting to these new tech needs rather than running from them, providers and insurers can equip themselves for the dynamic demands of their rising customer base. Taking proactive, future-focused steps to prioritize the customer experience today will allow providers to not only retain customers, but also to drive forward their quality of service on a broader scale.

Written by Chris Althoff, senior director, West Monroe Partners, and Bryan Komornik, senior manager, West Monroe Partners

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