In the last few years, healthcare has been trying to join other industries in the quest to deliver a better customer experience. The industry has been bringing a fundamental shift from volume to value of care. The evolution in data, mobile and cloud technologies has disrupted the U.S. health care industry. In addition, the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, the shift in the cost of care to the customer and the ever narrowing networks are rocking the fundamentals of the industry.
This disruption is forcing healthcare providers and insurance companies to move from a provider- and health system-driven model to one that’s more customer-centered. The disruption for the first time is pushed by the behavioral needs of the modern customer who demands both choice and control. Many industry experts refer to this as the retailization of the industry.
“The disruption for the first time is pushed by the behavioral needs of the modern customer who demands both choice and control.”
For all these changes, many healthcare organizations lag behind retail, travel and other industries at embracing customer-centricity. We’re living in highly connected times, but many health care providers and systems are still operating on a highly fragmented ecosystem. This gap becomes especially clear when you consider that the U.S. ranks the worst in the developed world in terms of efficiency and effectiveness—despite the fact that it has the world’s most expensive healthcare system, reaching almost 20 percent of its GDP.
For health care companies to catch up, business executives need to push their digital transformation agenda—and need to do so quickly.
What digital transformation means for the health care industry
In my job, I spend a lot of time thinking about digital transformation and how we can connect and apply data, technology and communication to redefine customer experiences and engagement and redefine business models. At Healthgrades, we have established ourselves as the leading marketplace platform for healthcare that helps patients find the best doctor, the best hospital and the best case based on both qualitative and quantitative data. We operate at the intersection of health care, marketing and technology, ultimately delivering data-driven experiences and communication that inspire a behavioral change effecting better health outcomes.
When thinking digital transformation, I find it useful to define what it is not. It isn’t just about automation of processes or jobs, or even new technology. It’s much bigger and more fundamental than that.
Digital transformation requires rethinking business processes. It’s about using digital technologies and data to put the customer at the center of your business. To succeed in digital transformation, look at your company’s ecosystem and determine ways you can drive more value for the customer.
5 benefits of digital transformation in health care
Some areas of health care are ripe for digital transformation. By focusing on these aspects of the enterprise, executives can deliver more value to customers and patients and see ROI from their digital transformation efforts.
Finding the right doctor
One of the biggest challenges in the U.S. health care system is matching patients with the right service and the right provider. That’s an important issue considering that finding the right doctor can be a life-or-death matter.
And yet customers sorely lack technology that will help them make more calculated evaluations on their health-care provider. About 85 percent of health care decisions are still based on word of mouth recommendations.
The entire industry needs to provide more information to patients so they can make informed decisions about their physicians. When we use technology to give people quantitative and qualitative information about providers in their area, we empower them to make better choices about their health.
The rise of the on-demand economy has given unprecedented access to people today. Customers could, for example, have an Uber car waiting in front of their house within five minutes of placing an order. Finding the right physician in your area, unfortunately, isn’t as easy. The health care industry hasn’t quite caught up with the on-demand economy yet.
People are busy and rely on their mobile phones to get things done. The health care industry has a huge opportunity to drive innovation so that more patients can access physicians using phones and other digital technologies. Being able to see a doctor—whether it be for a house call or by setting up a clinic appointment—should be as seamless as ordering an Uber car.
Social media has increased expectations for customer support. When a customer isn’t happy with an airline, for instance, he or she can tweet about it and somebody from that company will (or should) respond. Customers expect companies to address their complaints almost instantaneously—especially on public forums like social media.
Many companies have caught on and include social media as a customer support channel. Doing so upholds accountability and encourages better, faster customer service.
The health care industry lacks tools to drive real accountability. When customers book an appointment with a physician, for instance, there’s no way for them to know the success—or failure—rate of that health care provider ahead of time. It’s no wonder patients consistently identify poor service as an issue. A recent study from the consulting firm Deloitte found that 71 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with their primary care physicians.
Health care companies need a standard set of procedures for handling patient feedback. As business leaders, we need to drive higher patient-care quality. I believe that a focus on digital transformation can help improve health care products and services.
Technology could help the industry give customers more information about health care expenses. Right now, when consumers get a treatment, it’s often unclear whether recommended procedures are actually necessary. There’s also a lack of consistency for health care treatments: the same service may vary in cost from state to state—and even from one hospital to the next. In many cases, patients don’t know how much a procedure costs until it’s done and they’ve received the bill.
Health care costs have become the single most common cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S. More than ever, the industry has a moral responsibility to be transparent about cost. Digital transformation can help health care providers achieve that goal by putting customers first and helping them improve the overall patient experience.
To truly help patients live longer, healthier lives, we need to create a system of engagement. Physicians today know patients based on a handful of questions. A doctor could spend a few minutes with a patient in any given year.
Patient engagement happens very infrequently. A recent survey by the Council of Accountable Physician Practices found that only 20 to 30 percent of patients have access to digital technologies like medical questions or electronic reminders.
The industry needs an always-on approach to patient engagement. Digital transformation is part of the solution. It can help physicians get more information about their patients. This customer-centric approach to technology can also drive innovations that change patient behavior. Using data to share timely and relevant information with patients, as just one example, will revolutionize the services we provide.
Driving customer engagement with digital transformation
Digital transformation is an ongoing journey that requires putting the consumer at the center of your business.
As you pursue digital transformation in health care, look beyond the technology required to drive innovation. You can’t win simply with huge investments in mobile, cloud or marketing technology. To keep up with the staggering pace of digital disruption, the health care industry needs to engage with the very people they want to please: consumers.
As you expand your efforts in digital transformation, don’t neglect to use customer intelligence to make data-driven decisions around technology investments. If we fail to engage our customers, our industry will continue to operate behind the times.