If there’s any industry that’s gone through a massive transformation in recent years, it’s healthcare. Already the industry has seen tectonic shifts in policy, innovation, and cost reduction – and that’s only the beginning.
Fortune predicts 2016 will see healthcare trends such as drug pricing solutions, continued pharmaceutical mergers, patient adoption of health-related apps, increased focus on privacy and cybersecurity, and more.
But what does all of this mean?
For one thing, the industry is on the hook for providing increasingly patient-centric care, in response to the new healthcare reality of a consumer-driven market. “I think that the healthcare systems who understand these new [customer-centric] realities are going to thrive and survive, and the others are going to be left behind,” says William Cors, M.D., chief medical quality officer at Pocono Medical Center.
In the face of this consumer-driven landscape, health systems must focus on customer service, price transparency, and the quality of patient care. But, as noted by Fierce Healthcare, the model for exceptional customer service isn’t necessarily found in healthcare.
Enter the healthcare industry’s retail solution, a system that provides consumers with high-quality care in a variety of convenient forms at competitive prices.
Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why such an approach puts the consumer at the center of care:
Stronger Engagement Between Patients & Physicians
As noted by Paul Keckley, Ph.D., Managing Director in Navigant’s Healthcare practice, the healthcare industry has performed well in a manufacturing model. “Ours is a B2B industry,” says Keckley. “The B2B manufacturing model has made healthcare 1/7th of the U.S. economy and a $9,000 per capita industry: It’s big business and profitable for most.”
But what about consumers and patients? Is this traditional model conducive to a system where consumers engage directly with the industry?
Fierce Healthcare’s Hospitals Embrace Consumer-Driven Care eBrief reports that health systems are trending toward the retail side of business in an effort to better understand today’s more educated healthcare consumer. Airica Steed, R.N., chief experience officer at University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System (UI Health), says she studies the customer satisfaction models of several Global 1000 companies, including Disney, Southwest Airlines, Google, Ritz Carlton, and Zappos.
By borrowing ideas from other industries, Steed says UI Health has created a patient experience navigator program, which assigns a staff member to each family throughout the care continuum. “It helps provide a personalized touch,” she says.
So what’s the end result of adopting a retail approach to healthcare?
An opportunity to boost patient satisfaction by improving communication between patients and providers, deepening relationships between both parties, and driving the kind of patient engagement that will lead to proactive health over the long term.
Holistic Patient Experiences
Picture, for one moment, a brick-and-mortar retail store with customer service representatives inside
(i.e., cashiers, stockers, warehouse workers, service line specialists, etc.). It’s the customer service representative’s job to make the actual sale of a product, but it’s the physical storefront – in combination with online marketing, advertising (sales, promotions, etc.) – that brings the customer into the store in the first place.
Now imagine a hospital as that retail store. Under this retail model, the physician functions as the physical storefront, as it’s often the physician who attracts patients to a particular physician group or hospital. But, just like sales, marketing, and in-store customer service need to be aligned in the retail setting to make the sale of a product, these functions also need to work in conjunction in the healthcare environment to provide a holistic patient experience.
A call center agent might, for example, use patient information contained in the CRM system to improve the quality of interaction between the representative and patient. Likewise, an agent could view physician specialty information, preferences on appointment availability, and previous referral interactions to coach a caller on the best ways to engage with the most appropriate provider.
The idea is to use the retail model to connect multiple, disparate patient experiences that occur over an extended period of time, resulting in a unified patient experience. Developing a full and complete picture of the patient journey allows health systems to provide truly patient-centric care and drive patient engagement over the long term.
“The entire omni-channel experience needs to be managed, understood and optimized–from the moment the consumer sees an advertisement, looks at the website, or receives an email, to the point that she requests an appointment, and manages her care through online tools,” according to one blog post on the intersection of healthcare and retail marketing. “All of these touchpoints need to be designed on a similar experience to build trust and loyalty.”
Rising Patient Expectations & Technology Advancements
It’s no secret that today’s healthcare consumer is becoming smarter and more informed than ever before.
The data speaks for itself: One in three American adults has gone online to figure out what medical condition they or someone else has. Forty-one percent of those who searched online say a medical professional confirmed their diagnosis.
The question then becomes: What can health systems do to meet the needs of an increasingly informed healthcare consumer?
This is where the retail approach to healthcare once again plays a role.
Forbes notes that smarter healthcare consumers need help in their journey to educate themselves and make decisions: information, shopping tools, tools to monitor health status and communicate with providers, etc. To that end, proactive healthcare organizations are developing retail-based applications that cater to the increasingly prevalent “anywhere, anytime” mentality amongst consumers.
But it doesn’t end with apps and other technologies used to improve patient care and increase engagement.
To compete in an increasingly consumer-driven market, Fierce Healthcare recommends that hospitals also embrace retail clinic strategies. Large retail pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens are catering to today’s proactive healthcare consumer by engaging patients earlier with education and personalized outreach, making CVS the top consumer choice for refilling prescriptions, according to one study.
Forbes notes the inherent opportunity that exists for both retail pharmacies and health systems alike:
“Primary care doctors are in short supply due to decades of neglect and rapid growth in the insured population; drug store clinics staffed by nurse practitioners can help fill the gap. Improved information technology (“the cloud”) makes it possible to deliver healthcare in multiple locations and pull the information together when needed.”
In response to the new consumer-driven healthcare landscape, health systems and hospitals across the country are needing to undertake new, more innovative approaches to patient care to remain top of mind in an increasingly competitive market.
Borrowing from successful models within the retail industry, healthcare organizations are finding new ways to improve engagement between patients and providers, provide patient-centric care, and drive proactive health and outreach over the long term.
How has your organization adopted a retail approach to its healthcare strategies?