In its 2018 annual report to Congress, the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) argued that healthcare providers are making progress toward a more interoperable system of healthcare information management. However, providers and consumers still face significant hurdles to information access, efficient communication, and convenient integration. These obstacles impede meeting the goal of simple and effective person-centered care.1

Consumers want navigation of healthcare to be simple, convenient, and efficient. It does not matter to customers how a provider’s systems are organized; how their processes work; how various technologies integrate (or not); how they communicate information between departments, care team members, or with other providers. Consumers just want easy and convenient access to their health information and excellent communication from providers on how to utilize that knowledge to improve their health.

Healthcare providers must identify the most significant sources of friction in the customer experience and begin to harness technology and innovative practices to make the experience seamless. Three strategies that will ensure a frictionless customer experience are the creation of truly interoperable health systems, the guarantee of easy and convenient access to individual health information, and the ability to communicate with other providers and ultimately the consumer efficiently.

Interoperability

Healthcare providers must ensure an interoperable system. In other words, the consumer’s intersection with any, or multiple, parts of the system—whether that is care team members or a patient web portal—must be consistent and individualized. In a recent Forbes article, Blake Morgan argues that “modern customers crave digital interactions. Systemness [system interoperability] ensures that digital interactions are convenient and personalized, just like in-person interactions. No matter how a customer chooses to access their healthcare, they can rely on a consistent, customized experience.”2

What does interoperability really mean? The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society defines interoperability as

the ability of different information systems, devices or applications to connect, in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational boundaries to access, exchange and cooperatively use data amongst stakeholders, with the goal of optimizing the health of individuals and populations.3

Healthcare providers should include staff—the interdisciplinary care team—in this definition. Indeed, staff, environment, and digital interactions that form an integrated ecosystem further the goal of improving health by providing consistent and convenient access to the information needed to make informed decisions and receive personalized care.

Convenient Access

Today’s consumers also want access to health information at their fingertips, when it is convenient for them, and through any means at their disposal: telephone, web, app, and face-to-face. Additionally, providers need access to an individual’s health information from other providers at the point of care. Many industries provide multiple avenues of access to information across the entire consumer landscape, but the health care industry is only beginning to catch up.

As early as 2013, the JASON report prepared for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, stated the top two benefits for the improved exchange of health information were to “satisfy the growing demand of patients for flexible access to their own health information,” and to “offer faster, interoperable access to patient records by health care providers.”3 However, the latest HHS report to Congress makes the case that convenient and widespread access still has not become a reality. While most consumers have an electronic health record (or several), “this information is inaccessible across systems and [inaccessible to] appropriate end users in the market in ways that can generate value.”4

Providers need to prioritize consumer and staff access to health information to improve outcomes as well as satisfaction. An educated care team, which includes the consumer, will make more informed and effective decisions. Likewise, if this knowledge is easily accessible, it will be more frequently and efficiently utilized.

Efficient Communication

The consumer experience of the healthcare system is determined by interactions throughout the care journey—from initial appointments to the provision of care and discharge—and with everyone they encounter along the way, from receptionists to environmental services staff to doctors and nurses. How all of these different touch points interact and communicate with the consumer will impact how satisfied they are with the overall experience.

Additionally, “over the past two decades, new customer-centered technologies have reshaped the way consumers interact with their service providers, from their favorite online shopping sites to their auto insurers. Now patients expect the same sort of personalized, frictionless interactions with their health care providers that they get from other organizations.”5 A provider’s technology systems can either enhance or detract from how effective their communication is.

In short, many consumers want to be more deeply engaged in their healthcare. Providers can accommodate these wishes by adopting tools and procedures for simple and effective communication. Consumers are becoming more conscious of who can enhance their experience through the use of effective communication.

Conclusion

Healthcare providers must identify the most significant sources of friction in the customer experience and begin to harness technology and innovative practices to make navigating the system simple and effective. Only after the maze-like encumbrances of each transaction are mitigated can the focus return to the customer’s individual needs and objectives. Petalo is committed to assisting healthcare providers in simplifying the consumer experience. To find out more, visit us at www.petalo.ai.

  1. 2018 Report to Congress: Annual Update on the Adoption of a Nationwide System for the Electronic Use and Exchange of Health Information.” The United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/page/2018-12/2018-HITECH-report-to-congress.pdf
  2. Blake Morgan. “A Healthcare Wake-Up Call: Prepare for the Patient of the Future.” December 11, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2018/12/11/a-healthcare-wake-up-call-prepare-for-the-patient-experience-of-the-future/#41e58a3020d6
  3. A Robust Health Data Infrastructure.” JASON, The MITRE Corporation. November 2013. https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/ptp13-700hhs_white.pdf
  4. 2018 Report to Congress: Annual Update on the Adoption of a Nationwide System for the Electronic Use and Exchange of Health Information.” The United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/page/2018-12/2018-HITECH-report-to-congress.pdf
  5. Ralph Wiegner, MD. “Improving the Patient Experience: A Four-Part Approach to Delivering the Care Patients Want and Need.” Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. January 2, 2019. https://hbr.org/sponsored/2019/01/improving-the-patient-experience