In-Between Days: The Importance of Improving the Patient Experience
By: Patrick Drewry, vice president, Product Management
Consistency is key in healthcare
Most of us know that there’s an ongoing need for us to maintain our health and wellness. It’s not episodic—healthy eating once a week or exercising once a month kind of misses the point. While this is not to say that most of us don’t have some setbacks here and there (my 2-year-old daughter is in a cookie phase, therefore I am as well), we know that we’re on a journey in which consistency (not perfection) is paramount.
Which makes it even more puzzling that our healthcare system is still so transactional. We tend to interact with our providers when something is wrong or a procedure needs to be done, and our experience tends to be split up into three distinct phases around the encounter: scheduling, the transaction (procedure) itself, and aftercare. But what happens the rest of the time, between visits, procedures, events? Providing the patient and the provider with platforms to manage this gap is one of the key challenges we are addressing at Change Healthcare.
The need for data—for the patient and the provider
When we shop for any other good or service, we can arm ourselves with comparative data to make the most informed decision. We have access to consumer reviews, expert opinions, cost comparisons. It would be unthinkable to make a big purchasing decision today without this visibility. But that’s exactly what most consumers are faced with when it comes to their healthcare.
For providers there is a corresponding lack of visibility. Generally, the provider’s interaction starts once the patient is on the schedule. But how did they get there in the first place?
What factors influence a patient to schedule with a particular provider? And what information do they need to understand before coming in for that visit?
Higher Deductibles = More Discerning Healthcare Consumers
Another factor is the shift to higher deductible health plans, which in turn has patients with more skin in the game when it comes to their healthcare decisions. With that comes more focus on the choices that they’re making. For the healthcare provider, as patients are becoming more aware that they have choices, the provider needs to meet the patient where they are and help them through that before and aftercare experience.
So, there is a growing realization in our industry that provider-patient healthcare interactions should not merely center around single, one-off encounters. What clinicians have realized is that you need to engage the patient to follow through on a care path in the best interests of their health. Likewise, on the financial side, providers are finding that a more consistent approach to patient engagement—including providing price transparency—will lead to better overall outcomes.
It’s also true that the fewer administrative tasks there are at the point of care, the more the patient’s focus can stay on receiving the care, allowing them to make better decisions and improve their ability to digest and understand care instructions. Our encounters with providers are often stressful by nature; adding on the burdens of financial and administrative tasks heightens that stress.
An opportunity for innovation
In my view, improving patient engagement prior to care is one of the biggest areas of opportunity for healthcare companies to innovate. Just like in other industries, say travel or consumer goods, it’s about helping the patient understand their path to care and their care options before engaging with a provider. Our role at Change Healthcare is simplifying this very complex system for the patient, while providing actionable insights and adding efficiency for the provider.
This process continues after the healthcare encounter, of course, by making sure the patient has visibility into their aftercare instructions and an understanding of the pathway to a next clinical encounter. It also means simplifying the billing and payment process; we can all attest to how difficult understanding medical bills can be.
On the flip side is giving the provider tools—the data and platforms—to engage with the patient in a more consistent way between encounters. It also means having the ability to communicate with the patient in ways they are comfortable with and will respond to the most. For some patients, that’s an app. For others it might be a website, text, or even snail mail.
Improving the patient experience is not a zero-sum game. It helps the patient be a more informed consumer and can be a differentiator for providers. At Change Healthcare, we are creating tools that make healthcare transactions more transparent, predictable, and simpler for everyone; in other words, helping improve the healthcare experience overall.