Why Increasing Patient Engagement Is Critical to Provider Success
The patient engagement journey in healthcare too often is disjointed and inconsistent. Multiple departments, platforms and touch-points can confuse patients. Worse, these problems can have a negative impact on outcomes because frustrated patients may avoid encounters with providers, thus delaying appointments or potentially helpful treatments.
Fragmented patient experiences also can create serious issues for healthcare organizations themselves. Our survey of healthcare executives released in September 2022 showed that:
- 63% of healthcare leaders report inconsistent patient experiences across interaction points to be a significant or extreme challenge at their organizations
- 58% report disjointed patient experiences to be a significant or extreme challenge
Fragmentation in patient interactions can lead to critical information gaps, failure to effectively address patient issues, leakage, and adverse health outcomes. These problems can fuel burnout and attrition among healthcare workers and support staff who, after all, want to help patients but constantly are impeded by inefficiencies and lack of integration along the patient journey.
In addition, unsatisfactory patient experiences can hurt the bottom lines of healthcare organizations. Today’s digital consumers demand seamless, personalized experiences from providers. If their expectations aren’t met, they will take their business elsewhere.
Many entities in recent years have invested heavily in digital technologies to improve the patient experience. The most common areas providers aim to support are in general appointment scheduling, attendance, and follow-up. Few offer real-time digital interaction, support outside a narrow topic or stage in the patient journey, or AI-enabled support for needs more complex than standard transactional issues. As a result, patients often are unable to receive real-time guidance to navigate their care journeys across disconnected engagement tools and support.
A Burden to Patients and Staff
Unfortunately, 71% of respondents to the above survey said their organizations currently have limited to no integration of patient engagement capabilities. Automated outreach and multiple communication channels do nothing to streamline the patient experience if they are disparate point solutions harboring siloed data or only helping patients solve a part of their problems. That’s how appointments go unconfirmed and referrals missed.
This inability extends beyond clinical touch-points to include patient support provided by contact center agents. One-half of surveyed healthcare leaders reported significant or extreme organizational challenges related to service agent burnout and attrition. Contact centers are becoming a key point of operational strain for healthcare organizations.
An overwhelming percentage of surveyed healthcare leaders said integrating patient engagement capabilities was a high or essential priority (55%) or a medium priority (38%) in the coming year. The vast majority (84%), however, don’t believe this can easily be accomplished at their organizations using an existing digital platform. These healthcare leaders view decentralized ownership of related capabilities and inflexibility of existing technology infrastructure as significant barriers.
Unified, Cloud-Based Integration
Cloud-based platforms that consolidate patient engagement capabilities can serve as the glue across various topics and touchpoints, using APIs to enable data to flow where needed. Integration-first platforms that support a range of channels and functional areas give providers an alternative to the long and costly custom integration projects from internal teams or consultants.
A unified patient engagement platform can ensure a coordinated and friction-less patient experience across specialties, departments, or locations. Such a platform allows patients to intuitively navigate their care needs, provides options for self-help, and enables easier follow-up and care plan adherence. By unifying disparate patient engagement capabilities, providers can vastly reduce or eliminate the need for multiple patient logins and information requests while empowering staff with all the relevant data at their fingertips.
The September survey shows there are several areas of patient engagement in which providers currently are lagging but are planning to ramp up significantly. While only 27% of providers surveyed currently offer real-time digital interaction channels, another 33% have deployment plans.
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Similarly, only 11% of providers now offer chat bots for patients, but 31% have plans to use bots. The percentages for speech and text analytics (7%/36%) and conversational voice-based AI (15%/27%) likewise show that providers recognize opportunities to use intelligent technologies to transform patient engagement. Tools that can analyze patient language in real time and suggest responses based on perceived emotion (such as anger or frustration) can help support agents connect on a human level with patients and be in a better position to provide assistance.
Provider organizations face several formidable barriers to consolidating patient engagement technologies, including fragmented ownership of these platforms, resistance from staff, and limitations of existing infrastructure. Yet overcoming these barriers is imperative if providers want to deliver the patient experiences that result in better outcomes, increased patient loyalty, higher staff morale and retention, and greater operational efficiency.
Integrating disparate patient engagement tools into a single, cloud-based platform gives providers flexibility and scalability to meet the needs of digital consumers for personalized and convenient experiences, and a seamless patient journey.