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Customer Experience

8 patient experience trends to watch in 2021

COVID-19 has changed the world this past year, and no industry was impacted more than healthcare. Coronavirus exposed the inefficiencies, disparities, and weaknesses of our healthcare system, and both providers and patients were in the crosshairs.

Understanding patient experience is critical to our recovery from COVID-19 and for our health systems to be successful going forward. Health systems had to be nimble, innovative, and agile in response to this disease. This ingenuity will ideally continue in order to improve patient experience and healthcare generally. We can learn from and leverage the approaches that have powered our system’s ability to eliminate wait times, create pop-up testing and treatment centers, and impart compassion when loved ones could not be in the room.

Continuing to understand the interplay between experience results and operational results will pinpoint where health systems need to focus to recover and grow. Listening, understanding, and acting on feedback from patients and providers is critical to managing vaccine distribution in 2021 and health systems reinforcing their role as trusted partners for care delivery.

2021 Trends to watch:

1. Transitioning from a system of measurement to a system of action

For the past 20+ years, health systems have had to measure patient experience in order to receive full reimbursement from Medicare. The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) has defined which inpatient experiences to measure.  While capturing these metrics is important, it has not dramatically moved the needle on improving care delivery.

We have seen how important access, communication, and education are to COVID diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.  Empowering front-line healthcare workers with insights on how to communicate, how to reinforce compliance, and how to coordinate care has saved lives.  Understanding consistency is helpful (as HCAHPS measures), but knowing HOW to better act results in real improvement.  Asking real-time questions that complement (not duplicate) questions on the CAHPS survey can uncover the appropriate actions to take that will not only have the greatest impact on HCAHPS scores but ultimately deliver a better patient experience.  HCAHPS in combination with real-time feedback analyzed by patient diagnosis, procedure, and/or demographic will enable caregivers to deliver more effective care.

2. Leveraging EMRs with XM

Epic, Cerner, Allscripts, Athena...These electronic medical record (EMR) systems are typically where providers and patients transact.  Making it easy for the healthcare workforce to access insights about an individual patient through their EMR will enhance communication and engender trust.  EMR extracts are often used for triggering experience surveys (e.g., lists of discharged patients) but streamlining and simplifying the extract is needed to empower real-time feedback.  In addition, adding survey results to a patient record about their preferences and sensitivities can enable caregivers to be more informed and empathetic to the patient’s needs.  Greater interoperability between experience data and operational data will enhance the overall patient experience and empower clinicians to deliver better, more compassionate care.

3. Tapping into the Digital Revolution

COVID-19 has forced everyone to do more online.  From GenX to Seniors, video meetings, online food ordering, and general electronic communication have skyrocketed.  Health systems no longer have any excuse for mediocre digital experiences.  The user experience starts when a consumer visits a provider’s website.  Can they find what they are looking for? Can they easily schedule an appointment?  A streamlined user experience is critical to growing market share.  Providing multiple ways to interact with a provider - through a website, patient portal, health app, or at the bedside - is becoming table stakes. Understanding what works (or doesn’t) with your digital experience, and improving it, is necessary to effectively compete.

Telehealth is now commonplace whereas a year ago it was nascent. Patients have become much more comfortable interacting with their physician virtually.  Having an integrated way to assess a virtual visit - was it easy to schedule, was the communication between patient/provider effective, was the patient satisfied with the encounter, was the provider comfortable with the interface - provide insights on how to improve the interaction.  While we hope that COVID-19 soon dissipates, the convenience and accessibility of virtual visits likely means telehealth is here to health systems need to ensure this type of interaction delivers a satisfactory experience.

4.  Focusing on Resilience and Retention

Our Healthcare Heroes have endured unprecedented demand and draught this past year.  Between Emergency Rooms and Intensive Care Units being overrun with COVID patients to elective procedures drying up and healthcare workers being furloughed, all healthcare providers have seen their lives impacted by the disease.

To deliver an excellent patient experience, health systems must ensure their healthcare workforce is supported, engaged, and aware. Health systems must provide their workers with the resources they need, help them feel heard, and keep them safe.  Through real-time pulsing of the workforce, health systems can monitor sentiment and respond with solutions that will resonate.  By leveraging front-line employee feedback, insights can be captured quickly leading to actions to streamline workflows, simplify processes, and encourage engagement.

5. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

The virus has exacerbated and exposed the racial disparities that exist for minorities both in accessing healthcare and working within the healthcare system.  To improve patient outcomes in all communities, health systems must cultivate an internal culture of diversity and inclusion. In turn, a diverse and empowered workforce will be more likely to deliver holistic, equitable care in underserved communities.

Conducting honest assessments to uncover disparities and employee perceptions is critical to making the necessary changes in recruitment, promotion, and retention.  Asking patients for feedback about healthcare delivery models to include culture, religion and other aspects of identity will contribute to the development of better models for inclusive high-quality care delivery.

6. Building Trust

COVID-19 misinformation and misperceptions are widespread. Health systems need to establish themselves as the trusted source for information and for care within their communities.  Assessing the needs, perceptions, and knowledge of the population a health system serves is critical to informing outreach and ensuring people receive appropriate care.  Conducting community assessments and brand perception studies will inform health systems of the concerns and attitudes that exist and how the health system can appropriately respond with messaging, advertising, and education campaigns.

7. Measuring the ROI of NPS

Patient experience impacts revenues, referrals, adherence, safety, and the credibility of an institution with the community.  Poor patient experience has a cost, often reflecting disengaged employees, poor workflow, and service inefficiencies. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is used to measure patient loyalty and likelihood to refer others to a healthcare provider.  Striving for a positive work environment that promotes excellent patient experiences often leads to reduced patient churn, positive word-of-mouth, and increased referrals.  Financial models that track the number of lost patients, the costs for increased grievances or call center volume, and the incremental revenue of a positive patient experience have shown that high-performing institutions tend to have higher revenues and greater patient and physician loyalty. Hospitals with “excellent” HCAHPS patient ratings between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with “low” ratings (Deloitte Center for Health Solutions).  Starting to measure NPS and the impact it has on revenue and profitability provides a tangible way to reinforce the value of listening and responding to the voice of the patient.

8. Investing in XM Culture, Competencies, Technology

A patient experience maturity model provides a clear roadmap for continuous improvement. The elements to successfully operationalize experience management (XM) across an enterprise include culture, competence, and technology. An XM Maturity Model provides a guide for architecting, aligning, tracking, and creating the appropriate skills, support, and motivation for success. Over time, an organization will transition from responding and supporting the patient experience to innovating and creating exceptional patient experiences, leading to disruption and true differentiation.

Want to take your experiences to a new level in 2021?

Reach out to our healthcare team for more insights on our experience management work in the healthcare and patient experience space. We work with hundreds of organizations from hospitals to payers to life sciences companies.  Qualtrics is HCAHPS, OAS CAHPS, and Magnet approved.  Qualtrics is also HITRUST, ISO 27001 certified and FedRAMP authorized - the highest U.S. government standard for cloud providers. Our controls are based on FedRAMP and NIST 800-53 frameworks— gold standard security authorizations. We integrate with EMRs with our Health Connect app to extract data for real-time survey distribution and to import survey results into EMR patient records to streamline and improve workflows and better patient/provider communication.

Patty Riskind // Head of Global Healthcare

Patty is Head of Global Healthcare for Qualtrics. Patty brings 30+ years of tech, data, and analytics experience helping healthcare organizations improve their strategy, marketing, patient/physician experience, and quality efforts.

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