How Healthcare Organizations Should Go Beyond Telemedicine and Portals to Compete or Partner with Digital-native Market Entrants

What can healthcare providers and payers do to provide a more seamless, integrated, and consumer-centric experience across the continuum of care and engagement? Here, we’re tackling omnichannel care versus omnichannel engagement and suggesting some fresh ways to view your digital strategy.

Healthcare Customer Omnichannels

What is the Difference Between Omnichannel Healthcare Delivery and Omnichannel Consumer Experience and Engagement?

There is an important distinction between these terms. Omnichannel healthcare delivery, or omnichannel care, refers to delivering health-related services from an in-person clinic to via digital tools like virtual care and video or telephonic technologies. Omnichannel or multichannel consumer experience and engagement refers to all the various tools used to communicate, educate, and interact with healthcare consumers, patients, and members – ranging from traditional mail, email, text-based, online via chat app or website portal and mobile or tablet application. While there are times when each overlaps or leverages the other, it’s helpful to think of them as distinctly different when mapping consumer journeys and creating strategies.

Providers and Payers Must Align with Consumer Expectations in Novel Ways and Solve Persistent Omnichannel Challenges

Consumers have developed certain patterns, tastes, and preferences that have developed in response to using digital technologies in other industries like retail, banking, personal services, food, and entertainment. They are looking for that and more from healthcare as, possibly, the most intimate of offerings purchased by consumers. Healthcare purchasers, as well as the receivers of care, are looking for a convenient, seamless, and tailored experience across all channels, including digital and “in real life.” Even employers are looking for ways to differentiate in a tight labor market and healthcare benefits can help companies stand out.

Persistent Omnichannel Problems for Healthcare 

Telehealth utilization during the pandemic has given health plans a boost in their member satisfaction scores, which have traditionally not been very high. In fact, the annual JD Power Medicare Advantage and commercial insurance surveys saw a 10 percent jump in 2021.

Healthcare organizations struggle with the transition from in-person and office engagement to customer service to online portals or mobile apps. The experience among each channel can make healthcare consumers feel like they are dealing with a completely different company. One appears to know them, remember their issues, and preferences while another interaction is the reverse and erodes patient confidence.

When creating a seamless omnichannel experience, it’s critical that every channel close engagement gaps and work to break down data and experience silos, which payer and provider digital technologies tend to exacerbate rather than remedy. Competing with disruptive entrants to healthcare – like retail – will require an elevated view of digital strategies across the consumer’s healthcare journey.

This is evident in how many healthcare organizations adopt new digital experiences, features, and tools without integrating the experience of them against other channels. The pendulum tends to swing far to one side of virtual or digital technologies with new and novel tools or it swings to the other side with some new in-clinic program. Yet, only when these services and technologies complement and support each other does the consumer have more satisfaction, confidence, and loyalty. They can depend on the organization to help them no matter how they need to engage.

Convenience is More than Ease; Healthcare Must Fit Personal Workflow

Retail and virtual care companies are entering and investing in the healthcare market at an unprecedented pace. Why? Because consumers want healthcare to be convenient, and they want the same experience they find with major consumer brands. One survey sheds light on what consumers want:

  • 44% are ready for digital changes like telemedicine
  • 41% want digital forms and communication
  • 37% want touchless check-in
  • 68% value a customized patient experience

Most telling, 25% of patients are willing to change providers due to a poor digital heath experience, which is a 40% increase over 2019.

But, convenience isn’t just about accessing medical care that is in a location where a consumer already shops. It’s about fitting into their life workflow just like providers are concerned about how physicians will adopt technology as part of their clinical workflow. While mapping the patient journey is useful to find common touchpoints, it’s equally important to understand where healthcare fits into the consumer’s lifestyle.

For example, Experian Health found that 78% of patients said “they would like to schedule appointments digitally, but more than 50% of providers surveyed felt that scheduling is too difficult to offer as a self-service.” Why is that? Is that a technical hurdle to overcome, a medical-cultural assumption, or a trust issue?

When health is good, it might be about maintenance or a phase of life. When people age and if they have one or more chronic illnesses, their need to engage more regularly and deeply with the health system increases. Then, there are individuals and families that “live” within healthcare. They have special needs, conditions, or diseases that require more intensive engagement over a longer period of time.

Taking this kind of population approach to omnichannel care, engagement, and experience opens up opportunities for partnering with other verticals, as well as thinking of creative strategies to work seamlessly into a member’s work and life, similarly to how virtual care has been accepted.

Strategies to Compete (or Partner) with Digital-native Disruptors

Inventory Patient & Member Digital Experiences

Your patients and members have their favorite online stores, customer service hotlines, preferred apps and those companies that they despise having to work with because of the service – online or offline. How well do you know their preferences and what characteristics make a positive or negative digital experience? What are the top five activities or questions that prospective, new, and current patients/members ask of you? How could you translate what retail, financial services, and consumer brands are doing to become what consumers talk about in a positive way?

Use Digital to Triage and Direct Consumers to the Right Channel

Also, assess how you’re currently using online and digital to deliver patient/member care or service, engagement, communication, business operations, and education. Which of these could be partially or fully self-service and which require full-service, human interactions and problem solving? Understand how your patients/members want to interact with you. Why or when do they switch from one channel to another?

How could a digital front door, or user interface, triage consumer requests and needs, and route them to the best channel to solve their need? Surprisingly, there are many instances when patients/members know that they can’t get an answer to their question via digital means and require a person based on the complexity or timeliness of their need or problem.

Successful Experience Orchestration and Integration

Critical to a successful omnichannel experience is paying particular attention to breaking down silos and not building new ones. Some digital experiences do more harm than good and create dis-integration instead. Just as transitions in care received a lot of attention to sure up gaps and breaks in the healthcare chain, so too does the digital experience need better bridges from one channel to the next. Map out those transitions: from online to in-office, from follow-up appointment to app use at home, from email education to a virtual care appointment. Highlighting and addressing omnichannel transitions can go a long way towards a more seamless and positive experience for patients, members, and healthcare staff alike.

What Should Your Omnichannel Transformation Look Like?

Whether you’re looking for a strategy to partner with retail or if you want to decide on which best-in-class digital tools to implement or you want to understand how to personalize experiences for your customers, we can help. Our teams cover the continuum from healthcare strategy to operations to technology to Human Centered Design. A multidimensional approach can ensure that you don’t build more silos but create a more seamless and high-value outcome through your digital investments.

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