Providers strive for better communication, relationships with consumers

The COVID pandemic prompted quick changes among organizations, and now providers are trying to identify practices that can facilitate patient interactions.

Clear communication through the entire length of the patient encounter is an important component of improving patient experience.

Healthcare organizations realize the importance of forming closer ties to their patients and consumers, but they are struggling to catch up to the capabilities exhibited in other industries.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic enlightened the healthcare sector, which demonstrated that it could change rapidly to connect to patients. Now, it needs to solidify those gains and pick up the pace to improve consumer experiences – and some industry leaders are recognizing the signs that consumers will be selective in choosing where to receive care.

Speaking at the Sept. 20 opening session of the HDM KLASroom, Adam Cherrington highlighted key results from KLAS Research’s study of responses from 13,000 consumers queried about their rising expectations for what patients should experience. Cherrington, vice president of digital health for KLAS, noted that consumers want personalized care, but they’re often left with the impression that those interacting with them in clinical settings know little about them.

KLAS data shows the need for greater alignment among patients expectations, provider adoption, and tech solution delivery.

Healthcare becomes nimble

“I believe Chick-fil-A knows me better than my doctor does,” he said. “Healthcare tends to lag behind” other industries in recognizing consumer trends, “but COVID sped things up. We were forced to use telehealth, and we saw the benefits.”

Consumers are ready for a change in their relationship with healthcare organizations and are willing to adjust how they interact with them, Cherrington said.

Consumers now place more value on the immediacy of care delivery, noted Aaron Miri, chief digital and information officer for Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Fla. That’s partly a result of the pandemic and evolving socioeconomic trends, especially among younger consumers. “Now, what they’re saying is that the most important feature is that I can get rapid, instantaneous access to care,” he said.

Healthcare lags behind other consumer industries better meeting consumerism demands, says Aaron Miri, CDIO, Baptist Jacksonville.

Another important reaction to the rise of consumerization in healthcare is providing clear communication throughout the encounter, from before the visit to after care delivery, when the patient is discharged, Cherrington said. “What providers tend to focus on is communication right beforehand, like ‘Are you coming to your appointment?’ They need to work on better communication throughout the encounter, from better education information beforehand to instructions afterward.”

Consumers also are looking for help in navigating care systems, even for such a seemingly simple task as finding a doctor and then pinpointing their location on a campus or in a metro area, Miri said. “Physicians move around, and it’s hard to keep up with that. Consumers are telling hospitals: ‘I need to know who I’m going to see.’ ”

Collaborative consumers

Consumers, including those age 65 and older, have become more technologically savvy, Cherrington noted, citing research conducted by KLAS. Increased connectivity enables closer relationships with doctors. In fact, the research indicates that subgroups most likely to report a collaborative relationship with their physician include neurology and cardiology patients, patients 65 and older, patients covered under Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans, or those who use a provider’s portal a few times per month.

By contrast, patients least likely to report a collaborative relationship with a physician include those who are 18 to 34 years old, patients who primarily use urgent care facilities, or those who haven’t had a discussion with a doctor in the previous year.

Older patients show significantly higher feeling of 'collaboration' in their care with providers

Providers are increasing efforts to improve the customer experience, paying more attention to factors such as the Net Promoter Score, which asks respondents how likely they would be to recommend the organization to a friend or colleague. But just determining such a score is not enough, Miri contended.

Aaron Miri, CDIO, Baptist Jacksonville says being consumer-centric is all about how you use the data collected.

“It really depends on what you are going to do with that data. You’re looking for constructive advice –that’s a rallying cry that says, ‘We’ve got this.’ Those are gold mines for providers, because fixing those problems shows that I am listening. So it’s not so much collecting data, but do you have the capabilities to respond to it.

“And your own employees are the best secret shoppers out there. It’s a gold mine of information that you should be looking at for how to improve your service. If nothing else, do it for your employees.”

Gamification – providing rewards for a continued consumer relationship – is a powerful tool in building loyalty, Miri said. Consumers already participate in such programs in a variety of other industries, and they can help build stronger relationships between providers and consumers, he added.

“People don’t really want to use Google for medical information – they want to have a relationship with someone. Healthcare is the business of trust. We want consumers to say, ‘I trust this and I subscribe to this.’ That is gamification at its core.”

Visit the HDM KLASroom to see the full session with KLAS & Baptist Jacksonville's Aaron Miri, as well as other learning experiences.

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