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Paving the road to consumerized healthcare – and better patient experiences – in the United States and beyond

Robbie Hughes, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Lumeon

Written by: Robbie Hughes, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Lumeon

When you think of one industry in particular that has mastered the creation of a seamless, digitally integrated experience for the customer journey – with automated coordination across all stakeholders and touchpoints – what comes to mind?

Despite the criticism that it receives, the airline industry can be considered a success when it comes to its ability to orchestrate the customer’s journey and improve customer experience. Gone are the days when a passenger would call a travel agent to book or manage their itinerary. We now research, book and manage flights digitally though a website or app. This allows us to check-in, upgrade and receive loyalty benefits, and keeps us up-to-date with real-time flight status, from check-in times to delays, all the way through to compensation, rebooking and satisfaction surveys. In other words, airlines are seamlessly connecting what could otherwise be a highly fragmented journey for their traveller – from exploring flight options, to completing a journey, and everything in between.

Online services now provide consumers with a simple, elegant experience, while the true sophistication happens seamlessly in the background by automating and orchestrating the engagement, with business processes and fluid data exchange. This sort of seamless and automatic, digital experience is exactly what consumers have come to expect from everything they touch in their daily lives.

Healthcare is no exception. The industry is in the midst of a movement toward the consumerization of the industry, largely driven by Millennials and Generation Z who are accustomed to our new world of always-on, instant service.

Today, it’s well known that healthcare offers a broken, fragmented patient experience. However, what is less well known is that vast amounts of digital patient data is already available and healthcare organizations have a significant opportunity to leverage it to differentiate their brands and create magnetic care journeys, just as airlines do for their customers. Airlines keep their customers continually engaged, and ultimately deliver better service, at a lower cost.

Central to this effort is the real-time health system, which Gartner considers “a management and operating paradigm…for the next-generation healthcare provider.” It orchestrates the care journey and delivers real-time situational awareness about where the patient is, what has happened, and what needs to happen next. These real-time health systems are the solution to fixing the digital consumer experience, ensuring that even when no one intervenes, computer systems are busy executing best-practice behind every care journey.

Taking Europe’s Lead

While the European private sector has already consumerized the healthcare experience out of early adoption of value-based care models, as well as the need to differentiate against free alternatives that are spending billions on technology, we are only just beginning to see this innovation in the U.S. market. If European patients are paying for private healthcare, they expect an exceptional experience. As a result, European healthcare organizations are tapping into technology that can collect data about patient preferences and their care journeys – in real time – and using that data to automate interventions that ensure patients receive the care they need, when they need it.

U.S. healthcare isn’t there yet, but a process like this will soon become a top priority as healthcare costs become increasingly capitated. Today, a good patient experience means, to most people, that their doctor is friendly and simply gives them what they ask for – even if it’s not necessarily what produces the best outcome. Instead, drawing on the European healthcare market, U.S. providers can begin to improve their own delivery of care. With real-time health systems, the best healthcare experience hinges on the execution of a well-managed longitudinal care pathway – a critical difference if U.S. healthcare is looking to move the needle on delivering better care at a lower cost.

Making the “Patient” Synonymous with “Customer”

While Europe may be ahead of the game, the U.S., with an abundance of digital health data, could quickly overtake. The good news is, the technology that enables organizations to orchestrate and automate processes in real time already exists. Real-time health systems that personalize the patient experience and streamline care team activity are achievable today. The greatest obstacle that U.S. healthcare faces along this road, however, is that the patient today isn’t always considered the “customer.”

The reality facing most U.S. healthcare organizations is that their “customers” are frequently their physicians. Because physicians own the relationship with the patient, organizations find themselves at the mercy of the physician – disappoint them, and they can simply choose to practice elsewhere, taking their patients and referrals with them. This culture further compounds care fragmentation.  

With a shift in payment models, however, and an increasing focus on value-based care, we will see this begin to change. Rather than building IT infrastructure around the physician, healthcare organizations must design it with the intention of enabling their care teams to engage the patient across his or her end-to-end journey. This organizational re-design – that truly makes the patient the customer – will be necessary in order to achieve a real-time future that consumerizes the healthcare experience.

There’s no doubt that changes are being made in U.S. healthcare to meet shifting expectations from patients and consumers alike. A recent survey found that nearly half of providers say revamping the patient is experience is one of their organization’s top three priorities in the next five years. And luckily, the technology exists today to make it happen.

One scary thing is for sure – Generation Z is more used to being behind a screen that in front of people – they will soon start to influence and demand a digital airline-like experience. As such, they will naturally gravitate toward the health systems that are able to deliver a personalized and spontaneous patient care journey – in other words, those that have mastered Real-Time Health System Orchestration (RTHSO).

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