When you think about how personal expectations shift, depending on circumstances and the people or services with whom we’re interacting, the connotations around each word choice make total sense.
For example, when shopping online or in-person for products — as a “consumer” — you expect transparency, ease-of-use, security around the use of your personal information, convenience, value, and reliability. When price-shopping to compare medical insurance plans, or anticipating patient-balance-bills for particular physicians, exams or tests, you expect these same hallmarks of customer service to be met:
Are my health-related expenses going to be affordable — and will they work to make, or keep, me well?
On the other hand, when you or a family member is ill, you don’t want to be treated like a “consumer” — like a number waiting to be called at your local grocer’s deli counter. Patients can call themselves consumers to demand better value with their healthcare outcomes, because they should. But the point is taken that the healthcare industry might receive some blowback when they refer to patients as consumers. Because first and foremost, patients expect compassion during their actual healthcare interactions — to be treated like a person that matters, like someone’s son, daughter, sibling, or parent, because they are.
On the business side, experts further argue that use of the word “consumer” wrongly denotes that, somehow, excessive consumer demand is to blame for the high cost of healthcare in the U.S., or “wrongly assumes that healthcare is a ‘market’” by any of the word’s typical definitions.
As patient expectations shift across the continuum of care, there is one thing most healthcare organizations agree on: producing a better patient experience. And there are some essential ways we can better utilize data to deliver on these goals. So what are they? We will start with healthcare data integration.
There is a movement to elevate hospital stay experiences to that of five-star hotels, offering patients upgrades like high thread-count sheets and gourmet cuisine, or spa service add-ons like yoga or massage. But you don’t have to take it that far.
Some studies reveal that patients can distinguish between their experience with an environment versus the actual clinical care received from doctors and nurses. And across a variety of surveys and studies, the no. 1 thing patients seem to desire is more communication.
Upon arrival, and at discharge, patients want to receive high-quality information, in a timely fashion, and clear instruction.
During actual care, better-built environments can certainly be more conducive to improving doctor-patient communication — with measures like “reduced noise, improved natural light, and visitor-friendly facilities.” But superior clinical care still seems to far outrank other factors in what drives patient satisfaction.
Emerging patient-facing technologies serve many purposes, but most of these solutions’ functions are to increase communication with providers — from wearables and health apps to increase accountability and drive earlier intervention with providers, to physician-patient texting software, which can do everything from decreasing appointment no-shows to prompting customer service survey responses.
If you’re looking to use a more innovative health IT approach, however, one of the biggest ways to improve communication is by “automating workflows that unnecessarily take time away from that patient experience,” according to Joshua Douglas, Bridge Connector Chief Technology Officer. He’s referring to any number of healthcare data integrations that can reduce caregivers’ time spent at the computer, to give them more face-time with patients.
Particularly, removing dual, manual entry between IT systems has been “one of the most immediate ways Bridge Connector customers have gained more time for providers and staff at their organizations,“ said Douglas. ”Patients are the ‘buyers’ of healthcare services, and organizations are making more sweeping IT changes to be able to prioritize them as such — putting more time and focus on patient interactions and care delivery.“
Justin DeWitte, Co-CEO of Graham Healthcare Group, one of the largest post-acute providers in the country, agrees.
DeWitte stresses that any healthcare organization looking to deliver best-in-class solutions will need to not only evaluate different software platforms — from both a cost and functionality standpoint — but “most importantly, is this platform going to be interoperable?” he said.
“Graham is known for being an innovator in our post-acute care vertical,” said DeWitte, “and when we recently reevaluated each of the systems that we run, one of our biggest considerations was a software’s ability to integrate with other systems.”
That’s because, like a double-edged sword, investments with disparate health IT platforms can actually end up costing providers more time, and result in inaccessible data that is not reaching the right people at the right time. Without healthcare data integration, the data isn’t able to do its intended job.
But integrations can help you find that “sweet spot to best leverage the data you already have,” said DeWitte.
“The future of healthcare, for the majority, is going to require us to break out of our silos and coordinate care with others,” DeWitte said. “This coordination will be enabled by information-sharing and interoperability – we have to figure out the integration piece.”
“It’s highly important that all of the right people are getting the real-time data they need to do their jobs,” said DeWitte.
Learn more about how your organization can put your data to work using healthcare data integration — at any point during the patient journey — to create a better experience for patients and care staff alike.