A patient’s healthcare experience is a journey—beginning well before the time they arrive for an appointment and extending far beyond the time they check out. While health systems have worked to dramatically improve a patient’s in-office experience, the touchpoints that occur before and after an appointment are often overlooked. It's time to get serious about delivering the exceptional end-to-end experience patients deserve.
According to the most recent American Customer Satisfaction Index, hospital satisfaction in the US dropped 4.2% from 2019 to 2020, with a rating of 69 (on a scale from 1 to 100); this is the lowest the hospital score has been since 2001. To put this in perspective, of the 47 industries ASCI measures, hospitals ranked just above Video-On-Demand Service (68), Internet Service Providers (65), and Subscription Television Service (64). In order to innovate the end-to-end patient experience, it’s important to dig into the reasons why it ranks so low in the first place and why health systems should act now to change this.
Health system satisfaction scores fail to measure the business impact of the out-of-office patient experience
There are countless government, private, and non-profit organizations dedicated to measuring the quality of health systems and providers, most are related to outcome measures in order to meet state and federal government mandates, accreditation requirements, and financial incentives. While many of these reports and rankings do include “Patient Experience” as a metric, they are generally evaluating the quality of care during the visit itself, and not the end-to-end experience. Very few health systems have taken the necessary steps to create and scale a seamless, delightful journey for their patients.
Health systems and providers have a unique opportunity to address the multitude of touchpoints that happen between learning about a provider to stepping foot in an exam room with the same level of care and attention they’re working so hard to achieve in-office. Delivering an exceptional end-to-end patient experience reduces call abandonment rates, increases conversion opportunities, and boosts patient loyalty — all of which are good for business. Health systems and providers willing to adopt a patient-first approach—which includes simplified, streamlined pre- and post-visit interactions—will quickly realize better margins, sustained growth, and a competitive advantage.
Expectations for superior service in healthcare were limited by lack of patient choice
It wasn’t long ago that geography and insurance coverage often dictated which hospital or doctor a patient could see. A lack of competition left health systems with little drive to care about or improve the patient experience beyond the appointment time. With a growing freedom of choice in the healthcare ecosystem and 24/7 access to information, patients are empowered to make informed decisions about who they see based on criteria they define. This consumerization of healthcare represents a critical powershift that allows patients to demand excellent service along their entire healthcare journey and the ability to take their “business” elsewhere if any part of the experience doesn’t measure up.
Major industries like retail, banking, and travel leverage digital innovation, AI, and analytics to provide a customer-first experience that includes real-time messaging, digital self-service options, and personalized touchpoints across channels. It makes perfect sense that those same customers expect a patient-first experience from healthcare systems and providers. There is a widening gap between rising patient expectations and the reality they encounter during a healthcare journey. It is time for the healthcare industry to recognize that patients have agency to make sound decisions and are critical partners in the success of a modern healthcare operation.
Operational inefficiencies negatively impact the patient experience
When a series of seemingly simple tasks, like scheduling an appointment or requesting a refill, turns into one frustrating interaction after another, patients pick up on larger operational issues and begin to distrust the entire healthcare organization. “If they can’t tell me a test result, what else are they not able to do?”
We’re more than a decade beyond the introduction and adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHR), but why does innovation in healthcare operations seem slow to progress further? Health systems are notably encumbered by operational inefficiencies between the various administrative, legal, technical, and financial activities that support the core function of providing care to patients. Add outdated technology, lack of departmental collaboration, and siloed data, and you’ve got a healthcare organization churning out unhappy employees and dissatisfied patients.
New, practical technologies that are well implemented throughout the health system can transform the patient experience by introducing operational efficiencies and connecting the entirety of the patient journey. For example, by digging into the patient journey, it is easy to see where healthcare, a traditionally human-led, high touch industry, can simplify operations by leveraging automation in the right places. That is to say, if a health system reduces the dependence of human involvement for simple, “transactional” tasks (appointment scheduling, directions, refills) they can deliver superior end-to-end patient experiences at scale, while streamlining operations, improving employee satisfaction, and reducing operating costs.
When we take a look at the bigger picture of healthcare and the end-to-end patient experience, it’s a little easier to see why the industry may be slow to make changes. However, health systems are running out of time — not only do patients deserve better care throughout their entire healthcare journey, they will demand it.