Utilizing Data to Transform the Patient Experience of Healthcare

Capture real-time data to create a patient experience that feels relevant and consistent over time

Hospitals are complex physical and digital sites where humans, technology and information interact in dizzying networks, generating an enormous amount of data about a patient’s experiences, clinical journey, and personal preferences. A range of platforms exist today for collecting and organizing this data — EMRs are ubiquitous clinical tools, rounding tools are widely utilized to collect first-hand feedback from patients, grievance processes contribute another piece of the puzzle, and HCAHPS and other surveys are deployed to gather feedback from patients and family members. Social media reviews are increasingly another, and often untapped, source of insight.

Despite this wealth of clinical and personal information collected across encounters, health systems remain unable to build a complete picture of any given patient’s needs, desires, and concerns that provides true understanding. Further, health system executives lack comparative metrics to effectively discern trends at a patient population level. They also lack tools to effectively improve those metrics.

Impact of Consumerism

Initiatives to increase patient satisfaction and affinity are often based on out-of-date and anecdotal information. For health systems with the collective will to accommodate patient needs and preferences and create differentiated satisfying experiences, collecting and curating disparate experience-related data in a single, accessible location will be the key.

This is critical, more so now than ever, as consumerism becomes an important dynamic in healthcare. Healthcare organizations are increasingly looking to the more advanced practices utilized in other industries to learn how to deliver experiences that attract and retain lifelong customers. Competition among health systems for patients now empowered with choice is driving healthcare organizations to get smarter and more aggressive in their desire to offer services that consumers increasingly expect in every other aspect of their lives.

Healthcare brands can learn a great deal from organizations outside of healthcare and their success in looking at consumer experience broadly to proactively understand and address consumer needs. By capturing real-time data and equipping staff with tools, training and tactics to make patients feel known, valued and heard, health systems can create a total experience that feels relevant and consistent over time.

Great brands know that the brand experience is about far more than a transaction — it’s a journey that starts far before purchase and continues long after. Forward-thinking organizations within and outside of healthcare focus on creating data-driven consumer experiences, and on making cultural, technological and educational changes required to deliver those experiences. This large-scale strategy holds the potential to dramatically change the way patients feel about the experience of healthcare.

To make this consumer-centric goal a reality, healthcare organizations will need to develop the ability to not just understand but to even anticipate patient preferences and fears prior to a clinical encounter, and suggest actions that are truly helpful and welcome. Health systems can begin to create coherent consumer narratives by gathering and analyzing more comprehensive patient information and feedback data, such as asking what an individual patient likes, dislikes, and cares about.

Collecting Real-Time Data

Imagine if a hospital were aware of  a patient’s preferred nickname, or could anticipate a fear of needles, and was able to comfort that patient in real time and with empathy. Collecting soft data such as mood — during and after a clinical journey’s end — allows a hospital system to identify dips in aggregate satisfaction and to take action to remedy those structurally and at the level of the individual experience. For instance, if patient mood is consistently registered as poor after staff hand-offs, a health system might take steps to understand flaws in their care transitions. The knowledge might also help staff to identify individual opportunities for service recovery.

Consider the “journey” of a first time mother preparing to deliver her child.  Health systems can thoughtfully design an experience for this patient that combines facts about her individually, and the preferences of other mothers with a similar background. We can look at her past experience and pull that data forward to inform the new journey: when did she engage with an obstetrician?  Has she written a birth plan and what does it include? What are her anticipated plans around feeding? Based on these data points, this patient’s journey could include customized interactions such as a pre-admission phone call to let her know about hospital education offerings for new parents, texts containing information on optimizing prenatal care and nutrition, and an in-person conversation to discuss specific choices she will make as part of her delivery.

Hospitals will ultimately need to employ or contract new kinds of staff to balance patient experience with clinical efficiency as they seek to deliver this new level of tailored service. Today, nurses often deal with many patient concerns relating to their non-clinical needs.While these interactions are critical to ensuring a positive experience, highly trained clinicians may not be the most efficient staff to handle such issues.

U.S. health systems are anxious to understand what will be required to shift from a traditional ‘service delivery’ structure into a modern consumer experience that meets the expectations of discerning customers. The elements of that transition, a longitudinal perspective, collection and curation of a wide range of experience-related data, focused analytics and creation of new service offerings, are attainable and hold the promise to transform our healthcare system, yielding tremendous benefits for both patients and health systems.

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