Consider this: a person’s experience makes or breaks their choice of healthcare provider for 78 percent of customers, according to PwC’s 2018 “Experience is Everything” survey. This isn’t so surprising, as the impact of customer experience has gained importance across industries over recent years. Why? Because easy access to information means customers evaluate their options like never before, creating a level of competition that makes differentiating incredibly challenging.
To win business, health systems need to provide experiences that successfully attract and retain patients. Start by optimizing the consumer journey.
The typical healthcare consumer journey consists of 6 stages that together work to find, guide, and keep patients for life. Let’s look at each stage and what your organization needs to do to attract, delight, and retain patients throughout their care experience:
- Consumers perform self-assessments of conditions and symptoms, oftentimes conducting online research to learn more.
- Your organization should focus on reaching information-seeking customers to bring yourselves top of mind.
- Personalized digital marketing tactics like SEO, PPC campaigns, social media marketing, email campaigns, and outbound calling can help customers notice you, engage with you, and opt-into further communication.
- Here, the customer makes initial contact with your health system. This can be done via a number of channels— call center, email, mobile, social media, etc.
- Your goal at this stage should be to encourage further engagement by providing additional resources and helping schedule clinical appointments.
- The care phase is the assessment of patients’ health conditions in your medical facilities.
- You should provide pre-clinical appointment reminders via patients’ preferred channels to reduce the percentage of no-shows.
- After their initial clinical appointments, your patients embark on their treatment plans such as medications and physical therapy.
- During this stage, you should send post-clinical follow-ups and reminders that help patients adhere to their treatment plans successfully.
- During this phase, patients make changes to be proactive about their health and reduce their chances of readmission.
- You should continue communication throughout this stage by providing informational resources related to their clinical histories, locations, and interests.
Ongoing Care/Proactive Health
- Between clinical appointments, patients need ongoing care management aimed at fostering engagement with your physicians and organization.
- The goal is to form lasting relationships with patients.
- Maintain communication through your call center, direct mailers, digital marketing, and more to keep your health system top of mind.
Throughout the consumer journey, you’d benefit by leveraging technology that helps you gather, organize, analyze, and use patient data intelligently and effectively, such as an HCRM platform; HCRM data helps you personalize patient communication, ensures you are using their preferred communication channels, and integrates with other technologies like your EHR, marketing automation, and call center to enable holistic cross-channel engagement.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of the consumer journey for anticipating patient needs and finding, guiding, and keeping them for life, it’s helpful to look at one patient’s specific experience:
Steve’s Journey Through Shoulder Surgery and Beyond
Steve is an upper middle class 53-year-old white male living in the suburbs of Chicago. He’s married, has two children who attend the local middle school, and owns his own home. He works as a software engineer for a high-tech company in downtown Chicago. Steve has private insurance through his employer. He is also an avid triathlete and trains regularly.
Over the past few weeks, Steve has been experiencing right shoulder pain as he trains for an upcoming triathlon, especially when freestyle swimming. One night after a particularly painful workout, Steve decides it’s time he addresses the pain. He logs onto the computer and types “painful catching feeling in shoulder” into a search engine.
The first result that he sees frequently asked questions about arthroscopic surgery on your health system’s website. He clicks into the page and reads about SLAP tears. Hoping to learn more, he requests to download your pamphlet on SLAP tear causes, symptoms, treatments, and recovery.
Over the next few weeks, Steve receives personalized emails from your health system. The emails refer to him by name, note that he downloaded the SLAP tear pamphlet, and provide information about your Chicago hospital’s reputable arthroscopic surgery department. The emails also contain clear calls to action (CTA), directing to schedule a clinical consultation.
After receiving three unique emails, as well as reading patient reviews on your website, Steve decides to schedule a consultation appointment. He uses an email CTA which directs him to request an appointment online.
Steve attends his consultation with one of your physicians, during which he receives a physical examination of his shoulder and a contrast MRI. The physician diagnoses Steve with a SLAP tear in his right shoulder. Since Steve’s tear has also caused nerve injury, the physician recommends scheduling arthroscopic surgery.
Steve’s surgery is scheduled for four months away. During the period between his consultation and surgery, Steve receives outbound calls from your hospital’s call center, reminding him of his interim treatment plan—rest and daily icing—and his upcoming surgery date, including what he needs to do to prepare the day prior.
When the day of Steve’s surgery arrives, he goes in fully prepared and undergoes a successful procedure.
Post-surgery, Steve is prescribed a pain medication, told to rest, ice, compress, and elevate his shoulder for several days post-op, use a sling, and attend physical therapy to re-strengthen the joint. As he opted-into SMS messages, Steve receives weekly text message reminders from your hospital so he adheres to his post-op treatment plan effectively.
Steve also receives a phone call asking him to schedule a follow-up appointment with his physician, which Steve does. Over the next few weeks, Steve’s shoulder heals properly and he is cleared to resume some physical activity.
At the advice of his doctor, Steve continues to attend weekly physical therapy sessions with one of your in-network therapists to keep his joints strong and pliable as he resumes his triathlon training. He also continues to rest, ice, compress, and elevate his shoulder after training sessions to avoid further injury.
Ongoing Care/Proactive Health
In between clinical appointments, Steve maintains communication with your health system thanks to check-in messages from his physician within a patient portal, direct mailers that detail sports injury prevention, and emails informing him of upcoming events from your hospital he might be interested in— a joint health webinar, a Chicago-area charity 5k you’re sponsoring, and your Facebook group for athletes over 50. Steve also receives text message notifications when he is due to schedule clinical appointments.
The activity of journey mapping outlines all of the patient touch points during each stage of the care journey. By mapping journeys, you can help your organization understand patient experiences throughout their lives, implement practices to optimize engagement, and identify areas where you may not be maximizing your resources, resulting in lost opportunities. Create journey maps for many different cases— service line, demographic, psychographic, payer type – to ensure each patient’s journey is optimized.
In the above example, mapping his ideal journey through the orthopedic service line would have revealed that there is a long period between his consultation and surgery appointments, during which you’re vulnerable to losing contact with him. Knowing this, you built in procedures to engage him during this interim period, ensuring he received the care he needs long-term.
Within your organization, emphasize the importance of the consumer journey in providing excellent care experiences; when everyone from administrators and marketers to physicians and executives buys into consumer journey initiatives, you have the resources and bandwidth to acquire and retain patients for life.