What is Patient Journey Mapping?
Patient journey mapping – also called healthcare process mapping – is an exercise that healthcare leaders use to better understand how patients interact with a hospital or health system throughout their care journey. The patient journey map, which outlines all of the patient touch points during each stage of interaction, aids in the creation of strategic outreach that improves both patient engagement and satisfaction.
Stages of the Patient Journey
The patient journey typically consists of six stages:
- Trigger Event/Awareness: The patient self-assesses his or her symptoms, conducts research, considers potential health conditions that may require treatment, and may even reach out to online communities (posing questions on social media, etc.)
- Help: The patient makes initial contact with a health system via call center, chat, email, mobile, or an in-person visit
- Care: The patient is assessed at a medical facility (physician’s office, hospital, etc.)
- Treatment: The health system provides the patient with both on-site and follow-up care (prescriptions, physical therapy, counseling, or suggested lifestyle changes)
- Behavioral/Lifestyle Change: The patient makes changes to daily routines and takes part in proactive healing in order to reduce readmissions and promote long-term wellbeing
- Ongoing Care/Proactive Health: The patient manages his or her care between clinical visits; meanwhile, the health system fosters engagement between the patient and physician in order to enable the patient to address symptoms and maintain good health
Using patient journey maps as guides, healthcare marketers craft strategic, personalized outreach that keeps patients engaged throughout the care journey. Journey mapping also locates any gaps in the care experience, giving marketing and operations the opportunity to fix the issue. Ultimately, patient journey maps help healthcare marketers improve patient engagement and foster lasting patient-provider relationships.
Benefits of Patient Engagement
Patient journey mapping offers the following benefits to health systems that spend time to thoroughly understand the process:
Common Questions About the Patient Journey
- Why is the Patient Journey Important?
Today’s healthcare consumers are unique—they are flush with care options and motivated to conduct extensive research before selecting a care provider. In order to effectively reach and engage today’s selective, value-driven consumers, health systems must focus on creating excellent experiences for the patient that lead to increased brand awareness, higher conversion between journey stages, and patient retention.
The best way to understand the end-to-end customer experience and determine areas for improvement is by mapping the entire patient journey. The journey may begin with a simple web search that brings the consumer to a hospital’s website, where they complete a health risk assessment and are later contacted to schedule an appointment. The journey continues all the way through the patient’s lifetime so long as they remain loyal to the health system and engaged in the continuum of care.
- What Value Do Patient Journey Maps Provide?
Rather than thinking of the patient experience as an abstract or idealized concept – or limiting it to the in-person interactions between patient and physician – patient journey maps allow healthcare professionals to understand the patient experience holistically. Mapping reveals every facet of interaction that takes place over the course of the patient’s relationship with the health system, including appointment reminders, phone calls with admitting staff, prescription reminders, physical care, and with the right analytics even points in the clinical journey that happen out-of-network.
Since health systems tend to be large and, in some cases, disjointed, the patient journey from initial outreach to continued care is rarely a perfectly seamless experience. It can be easy for seemingly minor details or points of contact to be forgotten: For instance, when a patient cancels an initial consultation due to a work conflict but receives no follow up to reschedule. In this example, the health system loses a patient unnecessarily, perhaps to a nearby competitor.
Patient journey maps reveal these inconsistencies and gaps that are detrimental to both the patient and the health system. The cross-functional team of marketers, business development professionals, operations, etc. can come up with actionable solutions to fill these gaps (often with automated solutions), keeping more patients engaged and improving overall satisfaction.
- What Do I Need Before Creating a Patient Journey Map?
In order to create, implement, and support successful patient journey maps, healthcare organizations must first have a deep understanding of the populations they serve – as well as those they wish to serve in the future. Without fully grasping their audience’s needs, desires, and unique circumstances, healthcare organizations will have a difficult time identifying gaps or issues in the current care experience.
To collect, organize, and analyze the large amounts of patient data necessary for this level of understanding, use a healthcare customer relationship management (HCRM) and insights platform integrated with your existing EHR. The HCRM weaves together clinical data from the EHR, as well as demographic, sociographic, and previous engagement data to create a holistic, 360-degree view of each patient – ultimately allowing marketers to construct detailed, robust patient personas to target in the journey mapping process.
The journey mapping process becomes even more data-driven with the Evariant Insights Patient Journey Analyzer. Users can evaluate a patient’s entire care pathway – understanding where and how they entered the health system, the activities that are leading indicators to a specific procedure, and at which points along the journey patients are most likely to leave the health system. This makes it easier for healthcare professionals to pinpoint areas of improvement and apply targeted, personalized marketing outreach to prevent leakage.
Additionally, a marketing automation solution is extremely valuable for making the most out of the patient journey mapping exercise. A marketing automation tool can be used to schedule and deploy the HCRM-derived outreach campaigns at strategic intervals, whether at a specific point in time or triggered by a certain action (such as opening an email). This helps keep health systems at the top of patients’ minds by ensuing they do not go too long without receiving some form of communication.
- What Elements Should I Include in a Patient Journey Map?
To get the most out of the patient journey mapping exercise, it’s important to not only identify points of contact between the health system and the patient, but other factors that might influence the patient’s decision or ability to move forward with care, as well. Patient journey maps should include both quantitative data and qualitative data sourced from your HCRM.
- Touchpoints: These include any communications or interactions with the patient, whether in-person, online, or over the phone. For example, opening an email appointment reminder, speaking with the hospital front desk, or receiving a voicemail with follow-up care instructions. When reviewing touchpoints, make sure to consider both the content (the messaging exchanged) as well as the context (the environment or platform in which it took place).
- Timeline: It’s important to denote the amount of time that each interaction (or touchpoint) lasts, the amount of time in between touchpoints, and the overall length of the patient journey.
- External Influences: Any factors that impact the patient journey that are beyond the health system’s control. For instance, if a patient moves out of state.
- Internal Influences: Any factors that impact the patient journey as a result of the health system’s own operations. For instance, a long wait time to schedule a surgery due to the renovation of a particular surgical wing within the hospital.
- Barriers: Barriers are any factors that may prevent the patient journey from moving forward. Examples of common barriers within the patient journey include cost (if the patient is unable to afford continued treatment), time conflicts (such as a hectic work schedule or family obligation), the patient’s mental or emotional state, socioeconomic pressures, and many others.
- What Does a Patient Journey Map Look Like?
Ready to dive into the patient journey mapping process on your own? There are several types of patient journey maps to explore depending on your goals. Evariant Customer Success has experts in running journey mapping workshops that are customized to your organization’s prioritized and strategic goals. Improve patient acquisition and retention programs, drive high-value service line growth, and improve marketing campaign ROI.