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A catalyst for change: The imperative for experience-driven healthcare

More than a decade after the HITECH Act, will experience-driven healthcare move the needle on the next stage of digital transformation in healthcare?

March 2, 2020 | By: Ben Flock and Tracy McCarty

telemedicine doctor speaking with paitent

The competitive landscape in healthcare is feeling a bit crowded these days. Nimble, consumer-friendly and trusted brands grounded in technology and retail experiences are expanding into the healthcare marketplace. New models of care and changing relationships between payers-members and providers-patients are disrupting the traditional healthcare experience. Add in rising costs and regulation, and there’s a real threat to profitability and sustainability for healthcare institutions.

These market realities are driving the case for change in healthcare digital transformation. Improving processes and building efficiencies through digital technology tops most 2020 healthcare IT roadmaps. Yet, digital transformation talks often begin in the wrong place—with technology—and result in new, siloed technologies, leaving true digital transformation out of reach. So how should we be advancing digital transformation in healthcare? By turning the focus to experience.

What is experience-driven healthcare?

Traditionally, healthcare has measured its success on outcomes: Is the patient better or worse off following an episode of care? Experience-driven healthcare is more holistic, going beyond the episode of care to be inclusive of all interactions with your brand—from appointment scheduling, to the public website, to the patient portal, to physician engagement, to prescriptions, to referrals—well, you get the picture.

And, there are multiple critical audiences whose experiences must be considered—patients, physicians, partners, members, consumers. How do you drive loyalty, engagement and results with each of these groups?

  • Patients and consumers: Healthcare is one of our highest personal expenses. Consumers are looking for quick, personalized and cost-efficient solutions, the same type of service they’ve come to expect from retail, financial services and media. If you’re feeling under the weather and have the option for a telehealth visit compared to finding, calling and driving to a primary care physician (for a similar rate), you have the option. And as more options arise, delivering experiences that drive brand preference will be ever more critical.
  • Employees: Look to recruit and retain high-quality staff. If there’s dissatisfaction with the amount of engagement with static technology, or lack of automation and analytics to help them do their job better, then attracting and keeping top doctors and support staff will be difficult.
  • Payers: Finally, the traditional payer model is going away. Payers are looking to experience to maintain profitability. This includes changing from an episodic approach to healthcare, to a continuum of health and wellness. The message of taking proactive management of your health requires ongoing engagement to create stickiness and loyalty.

While the interactions among audiences may differ, they should tie back to your overall brand promise—what does your institution stand for? What experience should people expect when engaging with your organization?

Building a transformation culture in a risk-adverse industry

Digital transformation is not an initiative you can check off. It is not finite, and there is no end goal. Advances in technology, the accumulating power of data and evolving consumer expectations will keep the cart moving. Your success will be determined not by technology alone, but by an internal cultural commitment to owning change.

“Fail fast” mentalities that work in fintech, retail and other industries that can assume more risk won’t be embraced by this community. In healthcare, there’s already a lot at risk—you’re dealing with human lives. Priority No. 1 is, has and always will be taking care of patients. In this type of environment, forward-thinking transformation can be a hard thing to raise in the ranks of prioritization. While there’s an urgency (from consumers and employees) to implement digital technologies, it’s balanced with the very real day-to-day demands of delivering quality care.

Considering that digital transformation is also not inexpensive, siloed efforts tend to happen because organizations feel they can’t afford to do it all at once. However, this leads to disjointed efforts—i.e., digital technologies are in place, but digital transformation is out of reach.

A step toward building a transformation culture in healthcare is appointing a chief transformation officer or head of digital transformation to formalize a strategic approach across an organization. Some of the major roadblocks that impede progress on moving the needle forward on digital transformation efforts are organizational and stakeholder alignment, budget, education and timing. By aligning efforts across departments—medical units, research, marketing and communications, IT, business—you can help lower the cost of doing business through efficiencies and connecting systems to deliver better care and experiences.

Healthcare digital transformation relies on aligning on quality metrics

With competing priorities and stretched budgets, metrics are critical to success because they demonstrate ROI and secure future investment. Rallying your healthcare organization’s digital transformation around a key measurable business objective will help you make progress. Meaningful, experience-driven metrics to track could include:

  • Patient and provider satisfaction (HCAP scores, medical staff acuity)
  • Employee efficiency (record keeping, scheduling, status monitoring, appointment wait times)
  • Quality care (readmission rates, ER wait times, bedside monitoring)

Since these projects tend to be multiyear efforts, KPIs need to be looked at incrementally to show progress along the way. Having a blueprint that marks milestones along the journey—at 60 days, 90 days, 120 days, etc.—to show progress and business impact will more likely be adhered to and championed across the organization.

Understanding your audiences and defining your brand experience, paired with organizational alignment and backed by meaningful metrics will set your organization on a digital transformation journey that drives engagement, loyalty and preference in the market.

TEKsystems and One North are trying to change the narrative on digital transformation in healthcare. By focusing first on understanding your audiences—patients, physicians, partners—we can build experiences that drive loyalty, engagement, results. We’re thoughtful problem-solvers that provide pragmatic solutions to address digital transformation across your full stack of healthcare, business and marketing technologies. Let’s accelerate the benefits of technology through insights and innovation and partnership, together.

Ben Flock is TEKsystems’ chief healthcare strategist. He’s spent the last 30 years building innovative technology solutions that address complex business challenges in healthcare. He’s worked with Cigna, UnitedHealth Group, Aetna and Travelers. Before joining TEKsystems, he spent 12 years as Microsoft’s chief healthcare evangelist.

Tracy McCarty is the director of digital solutions for One North’s healthcare clients. As the agency’s voice and perspective of the digital healthcare ecosystem, she collaborates with clients to help them create value through digital transformation. Tracy brings a unique, 360-degree perspective to the table: healthcare business acumen, marketing/brand strategy and first-hand clinical knowledge as a registered nurse. Her background includes agency, health services, and health-system leadership roles where she has facilitated strategies for brand platform development, brand-activating websites, apps, patient engagement platforms and more.