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Health Systems need digital patient engagement, right now.

Meaningful data points in this article:

  • “Half (50%) of healthcare consumers surveyed agree that a bad digital experience with a healthcare provider ruins the entire experience with that provider and 39% believe a good digital interaction has a major influence on the patient experience” (Accenture, 2020 Consumer Health Survey).
  • Greater than 71% of all website traffic to healthcare websites is now through mobile devices (Statistic, 11/3/2020) and in 2020 Duet Health clients have 40% of all EHR utilization coming from mobile apps – with some mobile app utilization at almost 60%. 
  • “While a majority of healthcare consumers are open to receiving virtual healthcare services from their traditional providers (54%), they are also willing to receive virtual care from technology or social media companies such as Google and Microsoft (27%); retail brands such as Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon (25%); and medical startups (21%). (Accenture, 2020 Consumer Health Survey).

Patient Engagement & Digital

Today’s most successful Providers are the ones delivering their patient consumer digital tools and technologies enabling deeper engagement opportunities that help them activate and participate in their healthcare experience.  As we all now know, COVID proved to be a fast forward to digital health expansion and like a ball rolling downhill, patients and providers are increasingly expecting more and more connectivity every day as digital engagement with their healthcare organizations like never before. Virtually all other domains are built upon the concept of maximizing consumer engagement with goals of customer acquisition and retention, but in health, many healthcare organizations have only recently begun to align themselves toward a consumer-focused mindset and are thus typically late to respond to current consumer expectations. 

For years now the data has supported the idea that patient (consumer) satisfaction leads to higher profitability, but the 2016 Accenture study and its findings may provide context to this notion: 

“US hospitals that deliver “superior” customer experiences achieve net margins that are 50% higher, on average than those hospitals providing “average” customer experience”, (Accenture, 2016). 

The key here is the emphasis on superior by superior, we mean comparing organizations and providers that are dedicated to delivering superior results as opposed to those providers that are simply “checking a box”.  Those that don’t simply check boxes are driven by a need to provide real value to patients as a part of the solutions they are presented.

Often times, healthcare revenue opportunities and the hard dollars associated with them are lost every day in the US, as health systems undervalue and underdeliver in digital technologies and the vital role they are providing the patient. In 2021 and beyond, this focus on the customer experience has to include a focus on digital technologies, again highlighted by Accenture in their 2020 Consumer Health Survey (Accenture, 2020).  It provides compelling data points supporting the notion that patients want as much digital care as possible. 

In fact, Accenture found:

  • 62% of consumers would choose virtual for health and wellness advisories. 
  • 57%. of consumers are open to remote monitoring of ongoing health issues through at-home devices. 
  • 52% of consumers want routine appointments through telehealth”. 

Keep in mind, these are just the top three.  Patients want more and more digital care and digital tools made available to them and the data supports that they are using in much larger quantities than ever before. 

Furthermore, greater than 71% of all website traffic to healthcare websites is now through mobile devices (Statistic, 11/3/2020) and in 2020, Duet Health clients have 40% of all EHR utilization coming from mobile apps – with some mobile app utilization at almost 60%.  Patients are not just using digital tools on the desktop, they are using the modern devices that have now far surpassed the tipping point and are saturated throughout consumers of all ages, races, and in all locals – urban, suburban, and rural.  Immediate access to high-speed Internet services has never been greater nor has it ever been easier and more ubiquitous – these consumers are utilizing digital technologies for so much of their daily lives that the migration to healthcare feels long overdue.

And providers and healthcare organizations with well executed digital tools are nurturing and grooming them to become profit centers.  These apps and websites can be provided within budgets that enable continual growth, while their success is measured through their ROI—making them attainable. 

Digital engagement should be straightforward and focused on features that enable patients to immediately transact in revenue driving actions; with everything from delivering their fully billable telehealth appointment to offering real time scheduling, registering for classes and events, easy bill pay, as well as remote patient monitoring and recording patient recorded data and outcomes that can further increase reimbursement but there are so many more to offer.  The world of digital patient engagement opportunities has only just started to open up and will continue to increase for years, offering those providers with the best digital tools the best opportunity for growth and advancement and their patients the best outcomes.

Digital Engagement – Attracting and Retaining Patients

“Half (50%) of healthcare consumers surveyed agree that a bad digital experience with a healthcare provider ruins the entire experience with that provider – and 39% believe a good digital interaction has a major influence on the patient experience.  More than a quarter (26%) are even willing to switch to a new provider for high-quality digital services. 52% of consumers who have a primary care physician agreed that a bad digital experience with a provider ruins the entire experience with the provider, compared to 42% of those without a PCP.”  (Accenture, 2020 Consumer Health Survey).

There is a lot to unpack within the data above as these insights run to the heart of both the attraction as well as the retention of patients, but let’s work through it.  In planning to attract new patients, it is quite clear patients are already seeking high quality digital experiences and providers that have are able to highlight their availability by telling the stories of their digital impact, a new way to distinguish their offerings from the competition.  In a world where healthcare organizations are often thought of in a commoditized fashion by patients, these technologies are something specific that can be demonstrated in a meaningful way.

It is also quite clear that digital technologies falling short actually provide a negative experience from one that may have initially been viewed as a positive and should be directly associated with patient retention strategies.  This is the compelling reason for providers to avoid “checking the box” when offering digital technologies and to ensure that what is presented to patients offers advantages and provides a quality experience that can be seen and felt.  For example, oftentimes providers fail to realize all that they are asking their patients to do or all that patients would like to utilize in order to be successful in following up after an appointment.  Digital tools should be a conduit to furthering a positive experience and helping to ensure the patient is successful in their relationship with the provider moving forward. 

The digital competition for patients is intensifying

Providers of all types need to recognize the very real threat of competition coming from digital technologies that are already eroding their marketing share. “While a majority of healthcare consumers are open to receiving virtual healthcare services from their traditional providers (54%), they are also willing to receive virtual care from technology or social media companies such as Google and Microsoft (27%); retail brands such as Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon (25%); and medical startups (21%).”

Competition from all sides is not coming soon, it is here today.  What is coming soon are more and more competitors to the table as the opportunity to grow digital services can happen faster and is often much easier than brick and mortar options and often provides the opportunity for even greater profit margins in the process.  Where competition has traditionally been found on a geographic basis in healthcare this boundary is disappearing by the day and competition can come from large distances and in ways traditional providers are least expecting it.

Providers are in a prime leadership position if they just start competing

The best news for providers from Accenture and other relevant data is that “55% of consumers say “trusted healthcare professionals” would motivate them to take a more active role in managing their health.  Concurrently, only 11% of consumers said that their regular healthcare provider recommended digital tools to manage health.”  (Accenture, 2020 Consumer Health Survey). 

The health provider has long been the most trusted relationship a patient consumer has, and that relationship has not eroded and should instead be utilized to take advantage of the opportunity that is available right now. What providers need to do is harness their trusted relationship and use it as a channel to introduce patients to their tools, their opportunities, and embrace the role they play in this experience.  Digital tools and technologies can be developed rapidly and companies like Duet have existing platforms and tools that are cost effective and leveraged in short periods of time – developed with ROI centered models in mind in order to deliver immediate value, thereby  allowing providers to move rapidly and sustain what 2020 and beyond should have transformed in order be their competitive advantage.

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