The pandemic has created massive shifts in consumer behavior across nearly every industry. It accelerated the use of digital technologies and made video meetings and remote work mainstream. In healthcare, the pandemic created an increase in telemedicine, remote imaging, and rapid diagnostic testing. At Urgent Care Solutions locations in Denver, we pivoted to curbside consultations using video to keep patients and providers safe. When healthcare providers struggled to get COVID tests processed quickly, we launched Denver-based Statlab Diagnostics so that tests could be processed locally and results could be delivered days faster.
The pandemic created an industry-wide stress test that demanded innovative solutions. Moving forward, it’s clear that what patients and healthcare consumers want has shifted. Healthcare providers now need to move beyond providing care and focus on the entire customer experience in much the same way that B2C companies do.
A positive customer experience requires the ability to quickly respond to patient inquiries, provide accurate and comprehensive information on-demand, and allow greater access to health information.
Managing the Relationship
Healthcare providers have always strived to create strong relationships with those under their care to engender trust. Today, relationship building must include a focus on improving the patient experience at every touchpoint. Those that fail to do so risk eroding a patient base. For example, one research study suggested that as many as 50 million people would be willing to switch to a different family practice provider if their current doctor doesn’t offer virtual visits.
The pandemic allowed patients to embrace technology in new ways. Besides telemedicine, wearable medical devices and remote monitoring were deployed. Pharmacies emphasized mobile apps, home delivery, and additional offerings like vaccines and health services. Urgent care facilities saw a significant increase in patient volume for on-demand healthcare and testing.
Having to wait days or weeks for an appointment and then still sitting in waiting areas and patient rooms for extended periods is no longer a viable business model for patient retention.
Beyond the Technology
Technology alone will not meet patient needs, however. Deloitte’s survey of US health care consumers echoed the findings from past surveys. Patients value doctors and healthcare providers who listen to them, show compassion, take the time to answer questions without rushing, and communicate clearly.
As digital solutions are offered, healthcare providers must remember what’s really important to patients. Customers still prefer in-person healthcare services and a personal relationship with their doctor or provider. Even with the growing use of telemedicine, two-thirds of those surveyed say they believe a doctor or nurse needs to conduct a physical examination to understand their unique health needs. More than half do not believe they get the same quality of care with remote visits.
The Changing Focus in Healthcare
The Deloitte health analysts advise providers to take proactive steps to improve the customer experience, including:
- Deploy new tools and service
- Explore ways to make data interpretable across platforms and providers
- Invest in virtual health technology and training for clinicians
- Create more access points and locations for patient interaction
- Continue to earn trust through empathy and reliability