The patient experience is the sum of all the interactions patients have with health system, providers, and facilities. As the market shifts towards patient-centered care, it’s vital that organizations understand the importance of creating an excellent overall experience for their patients.

In 2018, health care providers invested in a number of digital services such as online bill pay, social media presence, and a 24/7 nurse hotlines. Looking into 2019, we expect technology to continue to transform healthcare, but practitioners will be demanding the use of real-time data to make informed decisions and take action. Below are seven patient experience trends we expect to see in 2019.

1. Consumerism in healthcare continues to grow

The rising costs of healthcare and increased use of high deductible health plans are pushing consumers to get more involved in managing their health and costs related to care. Consumers are now empowered to ask questions rather than passively doing what is recommended. Health-related technology is also pushing consumer knowledge about health and wellness.

In addition, as the experience economy permeates every area of our lives, healthcare providers are being compared to other consumer product type experiences (Amazon, Apple, Four Seasons, BMW) and need to figure out how to better compete. Improving patient experience is critical in the competition for market share, and health systems will need to improve convenience, access, and overall patient service in order to grow.

2. Demand for real-time feedback is increasing

Real-time feedback captured at every step of the patient journey is more important and relevant to improvement than comparisons to retrospective benchmarks— looking in the rearview mirror. Healthcare providers need data faster to allow them to take action in the moment — potentially changing perceptions patients have of their practice or facility while still in care. Using technology such as text, kiosks, and Alexa or Google Home, provide mechanisms for instant feedback. Intercepting a potentially negative encounter and turning it around, can have significant benefits on patient loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. With the influx of online reviews used for provider research and selection, healthcare organizations must quickly address issues as they occur to ensure a more positive overall experience.

3. The use of X and O-data combined

Traditionally, operational metrics (O-data) such as safety events, clinical outcomes, throughput measures, and financials have been analyzed separately from patient experience results. Going forward, companies need to combine their O-data with experience data (X-data), such as patient experience and employee experience, to drive comprehensive improvement across a health system. The combination of X and O-data will help break down silos, improve quality, and encourage real change by providing a more holistic view of how these factors interact. O-data describes “what” is happening and X data answers the question “why;” both components are needed to better identify and address root causes underlying quality issues.

4. Technology will transform the healthcare experience

Technology (telemedicine, online chronic illness trackers, lifestyle – weight, exercise, medication management apps, online scheduling, etc.) is transforming the healthcare experience. One example is fitness trackers— they’re the largest segment of wearable devices on the market and are expected to increase to $3.33 billion in revenue by 2022. As people take charge of their personal health, they’ll use technology to assist them. In addition, more and more patients are using online reviews to evaluate physician quality and begin their search for a doctor online.

Healthcare providers are also utilizing technology by capturing patient feedback through digital solutions, which will help care providers respond faster and more effectively to patient needs. Leveraging the healthcare digital transformation will help health systems better communicate, coordinate, and deliver value to patients, maintaining and growing market share, and contributing to improved quality.

5. Health System transition from reactive to proactive

Health systems are transitioning from reactive care management to proactive health hubs, using their position in a community as a large employer and health expert, to proactively partner with community (social welfare) solutions like transportation companies, food sources, and businesses, to better manage the health of a population.

Social determinants of health (e.g. rate of obesity, food deserts, access to primary care, access to fitness facilities, crime rate) are critical to understanding what solutions are needed to address the underlying health needs of a community. Measuring population health expectations and comparing those to available resources will help identify the gaps that a health system will need to fill.

6. Importance of Medicaid patient experience

Around 73 million Americans are on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Measuring the Medicaid patient experience is critical to understanding how to manage this growing payer population. Reaching this segment through mobile phones to better understand how to influence care access, compliance, and lifestyle management will help raise the bar for health management of the chronically ill and/or socioeconomically challenged. Traditionally, Medicaid patients haven’t had access to cell phones but the gap is narrowing, making eHealth services more accessible.

7. Increase in the Chief Experience Officer role

As health systems place increased importance on improving the patient experience, organizations are hiring more Chief Experience Officers (CXOs), a relatively new role to the hospital C-Suite. More and more health systems have identified this role as critical to their long term success and many have incentives tied to patient experience improvement. The Affordable Care Act also changed the game by linking hospital Medicare reimbursements to patient experience, making this position even more critical. Often a CXO oversees patient experience, quality, safety, and performance improvement— essential components that contribute to the overall perception of the entity’s quality of care and reputation. The high cost of healthcare has driven patient and community expectations up, so understanding the importance of every experience is transformational to a hospital’s success.

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