Guest Post: Americans Say Healthcare Isn’t the Consumer Experience Leader It Needs to Be

Thursday, March 14th, 2019
This post was written by Nate Brogan

Healthcare consumer experiences are falling short of patients’ expectations, according to a West survey. West surveyed 1,036 adults and 317 healthcare providers in the United States to learn how Americans feel their healthcare experiences stack up against other consumer experiences. The survey revealed that, although patients want healthcare experiences to outshine other consumer experiences, 72 percent of patients feel healthcare is falling behind other industries in terms of delivering exceptional experiences. The solution? Patients suggest better communication is needed for healthcare to live up to consumer experience expectations.

More than half (56 percent) of providers agree that healthcare may be trailing other industries when it comes to delivering meaningful consumer experiences, the West survey revealed. Also, around one in three Americans believe healthcare organizations are not as focused on customer experiences as grocery stores (30 percent), travel companies (30 percent) and financial services companies (29 percent).

Lagging Healthcare Experiences

Patients who feel healthcare organizations need to raise the bar when it comes to delivering customer experiences point to billing and wait times as two of the areas where improved communication could make healthcare experiences better. Around one in three patients say healthcare bills are more confusing than other bills (30 percent) and doctors run late for appointments more frequently than service providers from other industries (35 percent). Both of those, patients say, detract from the overall healthcare consumer experience.

Transforming healthcare experiences—at least in regard to billing and wait times—may be as easy as making some simple communication adjustments. It doesn’t take much in terms of time or resources to send patients a text or email that notifies them when a doctor is running behind schedule. Most healthcare organizations already use patient engagement technology that enables teams to send patients automated messages to remind them about upcoming appointments. That same technology can be used to send other types of messages to patients—like a message to clarify a bill, for example.

Here is a closer look at two communication upgrades healthcare teams can make to deliver better experiences for patients:

Actively and clearly communicate about financial responsibilities.

Most patients agree that interpreting and paying medical bills is confusing. The financial stress of having to pay medical bills can be heavy enough. But add to it the confusion of trying to determine what amount is actually owed, what is covered by insurance, what services are included in billed costs, and the process of paying medical bills can become overwhelming. A majority of healthcare providers (61 percent) admit that they believe healthcare bills are more confusing than other bills. Unfortunately, healthcare’s lack of cost transparency and complicated billing can cause patients to feel negatively about their healthcare experiences. But some of that frustration can easily be avoided.

Sending messages to communicate about costs and payments can eliminate stress caused by medical bills and improve overall healthcare experiences for patients. Healthcare teams that use patient engagement technology to send appointment reminders can adapt their messages and use their existing technology to communicate about a variety of financial topics. This might mean sending patients messages following appointments to let them know when to expect a bill, what services will be included on their bill and what payment options are available to them. It could also mean following up with a message after a bill has been sent, to explain and clarify what costs are covered by insurance. According to West’s survey findings, only 15 percent of providers routinely send these types of messages. Making this type of increased communication a standard part of the billing process allows patients to better budget for healthcare expenses, and it lessens confusion and frustration—in other words, a big patient experience improvement.

Notify patients when there are delays or changes to scheduled appointments.

Another time when patients want increased communication is when doctors are running late. More than eight in ten patients (83 percent) think healthcare organizations are more likely than other companies to run behind schedule or keep them waiting. Because patients typically don’t find out about delays until after they arrive for an appointment, this causes a lot of waiting. Many providers don’t recognize quite how much of a problem waiting is, or that delays are a major frustration for patients. Less than half of providers (42 percent) think healthcare professionals actually run late more frequently than service providers in other industries. This explains why less than half (49 percent) of healthcare providers say that their patients receive notifications (text messages, voice calls or emails) when there are delays that impact their healthcare appointments.

It is unlikely that delays could be completely eliminated or that providers could maintain an on-time schedule 100 percent of the time. However, healthcare teams can certainly reduce waiting by leveraging their appointment reminder technology to communicate with patients when there are delays. Other industries send similar messages to alert consumers of delays. For example, airlines send messages to notify fliers of delayed and cancelled flights. By doing this, it allows consumers to adjust their arrival time and it helps minimize frustration. When healthcare teams send these types of communications to patients, they can show patients their time is valued and help them feel better about their healthcare experiences.

Patients hold healthcare to high standards; they want healthcare experiences to outshine other consumer experiences. Taking advantage of opportunities to use technology-enabled communications to better communicate with patients is an effective way to deliver better patient experiences. And doing so can help healthcare become the consumer experience leader patients expect it to be.

Nate Brogan

Nate Brogan

About the Author: Nate Brogan is an advocate for utilizing technology-enabled communications to engage and activate patients beyond the clinical setting, promoting the idea that engaging with patients between healthcare appointments in meaningful ways will encourage and inspire them to follow and embrace treatment plans—and that activating these positive behaviors ultimately leads to better outcomes for both healthcare organizations and patients. Brogan currently serves as President of Notification Services at West (www.west.com), where the healthcare mission is to help organizations harness communications to expand the boundaries of where, when, and how healthcare is delivered.

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