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How an omni-channel approach can aid patient experience

Patient dissatisfaction often comes from wait times rather than from actual clinical care. In healthcare, the complete consumer experience is repeatedly overlooked as a critical component to building loyal, repeat visitors.

With smartphones in hand, we’ve gotten used to receiving instant information and a seamless customer experience. Text messages and alerts telling us that a package has just been delivered, or that our table is now available, provide timely information in a way that enables us to do more with the time we have.

And yet, in healthcare, we wait. In many ways, the healthcare industry is extremely advanced. In other areas, we are woefully behind. Customer experience is one of the areas where most healthcare providers’ processes, procedures and technology are archaic compared to other digital interactions. But it doesn’t have to be.

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Taking cues from retail and hospitality, healthcare providers can transform patient experience with an omni-channel approach.

The omni-channel approach is a marketing strategy designed to create unified, integrated experiences for consumers, across any channel with which they may interact. Some of the best consumer brands that succeed at delivering omni-channel experiences include Disney, Starbucks, Amazon and REI.

In healthcare, though, patients haven’t traditionally been considered consumers. While some efforts are underway to improve patient experience, they often fall short of truly seamless consumer interactions. For example, have you ever received three different reminders via three different channels about an upcoming doctor appointment? A phone call, a text and an email? And when you responded “yes, I’ll be there” to the text, you still got a phone call reminder the next day?

While the intention is to make sure the patient actually arrive for the appointment, the experience for the patient is frustrating. What causes angst for the consumer is when various channels are disconnected. Plus, healthcare organizations continue to consolidate, creating even more disjointed, siloed experiences for patients. The patient might see the same logo on four different buildings, but have four very different experiences. Serving patients consistently across all channels and care settings is the cornerstone of an omni-channel healthcare experience.

The easiest, and perhaps most obvious, answer is to achieve higher HCAHPS and CG CAHPS scores to maximize Medicare reimbursement. The long-term value, though, is continuous customer loyalty. Omni-channel healthcare experiences keep patients coming back time after time.

Let’s look at Disney as an example. How does Disney continue to keep generations of visitors coming back to their parks? By providing what it calls “magical” experiences. While your stay at a Disney theme park may seem like magic, it’s actually very carefully and purposefully orchestrated. Every single detail is consistent and memorable, from staff hiring and training, to the hotel and park experience, to digital interactions. Your experience is the same, regardless of where you are, or how you interact. Disney believes that exceptional service is an economic asset rather than an expense. Done right, exceptional service can deliver a lifetime of loyalty.

We recently analyzed CMS patient satisfaction survey data, and found that the primary source of patient dissatisfaction in healthcare was not clinical care, but rather service experiences such as long wait times, difficulty in paying bills and unsatisfactory call center interactions.

These can all be addressed by implementing an omni-channel approach. And in the digital age, the right technology helps deliver the digital experience patients now expect.

Like many healthcare organizations today, Meadows Health in Vidalia, Ga., has grown by acquisition. After performing their own market research, the leaders at Meadows decided to employ an omni-channel approach to customer service and patient experience. Using a technology-enabled patient experience platform, Meadows rolled out consistent, high-touch patient interactions before, during and after patient visits. Now, regardless of location or channel, patients have a consistent interaction with Meadows Health.

Customer comments such as “Oh, this is the same check-in process as the main hospital.” prove that consistency is not only recognized, but a pleasant surprise. That’s the magic you’re looking for.

Consumers today expect a seamless digital experience, even from their healthcare providers. With omni-channel technology platforms, providers can use the information that already exists in the EHR to deliver a better patient experience. This helps patients save time and get the personalized, transparent communication they need and expect.

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