Four Digital Trends Transforming Healthcare for the Patient Experience in 2017

Dion Hinchcliffe | February 20, 2017

Digital advances in Healthcare are in the midst of transforming the patient experience like never before. While there have been many significant technology innovations for patients over the last few years, including patient/doctor portals, wearables, and mobile apps, each of which have notably improved data collection and communication with the patient, they have largely been incremental, until recently.

We are beginning to see emerging digital tools being used to genuinely transform the patient experience. These are bringing to bear many of the advances we’ve seen elsewhere in the digital world to the healthcare arena, which has frequently had to contend with regulatory barriers and its own limited comfort with the latest consumer technology trends. This has made healthcare relatively resistant to the more disruptive improvements related to digital engagement and customer experience.

Now, however, many of the digital healthcare breakthroughs are being made in the so-called healthtech space, frequently by startups. This has put the pressure on and given the impetus to many hospital and healthcare providers to have the confidence to provide more consumerized patient experience while cultivating the technical know-how to try newer and more effective ways to digitally connect with, enable, and empower their patients.

Strategic Capabilities of the Modern Patient Experience in 2017

Looking at the overall patient experience trends at present, it’s clear that consumers will drive and personally direct their healthcare experience in 2017 like never before. The patient experience will become more contextual and adapted to the dynamic needs of the consumer at the moment, tapping into other 3rd party data sources like online calendars, location data from mobile devices, and lifestyle apps that track nutrition, biometrics, and exercise to provide customized, on-the-fly experiences that can better meet patient needs.

The question for most healthcare organizations in this tech-infused environment is how can they turn these overall trends into specific digital solutions that can improve the care that patients receive.

Here are four of the more compelling patient experience capabilities that healthcare organizations can consider that are most likely to improve the quality of care and overall patient satisfaction, while not requiring make-or-break investments:

Wellness Tracking

The wearable revolution had many healthcare implications, tracking body statistics, exercise, physical activity, and other useful patient indicators. But they were typically very lifestyle focused and often not explicitly designed for impact to the patient experience.

This is now changing with this year’s new crop of highly capable medical wearables, which are much more aimed at healthcare use cases in areas like medication adherence, diabetes coaching, and pregnancy tracking, along with more collaborative EMRs, which we explore below, that can systemically expose the wellness data to all of a patient’s healthcare providers in a way that can substantially improve care.

Patient Portals and Collaborative EMRs

Going well beyond secure messaging, next-generation patient portals use lessons learned from the social networking space and gives healthcare providers a frictionless and more information-rich way to eliminate silos and put the patient in the center, while improving overall care quality and reducing errors due to lack of contextual information and coordination. Such collaborative patient portals are now believed to help in the shift to value-based care models.

In particular, it’s the collaborative scenarios within the electronic medical record (EMS) that offers up the most possibilities in improving the patience experience by enabling a patient’s various providers to work together more effectively while also using a single view of the patient’s medical information.

Healthcare Communities

Many studies over the years have shown the effectiveness of leading healthcare online communities like CureTogether and PatientsLikeMe that focus in specific diseases or conditions. Now healthcare providers can integrate such communities — or increasingly build their own into their overall digital patience experience — to improve the overall patient support system and improve adherence to treatment by, for example, providing a supporting environment of similar patients that are farther ahead in treatment.

Designed well, such online communities can help a patients entire network of caregivers, family members, and friends. The data supporting investment in online communities  to improve the patient experience is growing and significant, with over half of those that use a leading healthcare community reporting that it was moderately to very helpful in learning more about and managing their condition.

Opt-in Population Health

The wider digital world has long understood that our data is better and more useful when it’s used in context with other people’s data. This has been a major challenge in a healthcare context due to privacy and regulatory restrictions. Yet the healthtech industry has steadily chipped away at the issues, and are increasingly created ways for patient to opt-in their data across healthcare systems, services, and apps.

What’s more, population health is much easier once healthcare providers have adopted some of the other capabilities on this list, providing a platform upon which to aggregate select data, either publicly or privately, to gain insights into health across populations, and analyze it for opportunities to improve the patience experience.

Thus, when looking at the context of overall population health trends today, it’s clear the developing and owning a platform to realize them is one of the major steps most healthcare organization should prioritize this year.

Disrupting the Traditional Patient Experience

As the pace of digital healthcare advances begin to catch up to the speed of the overall technology industry, it’s clear healthcare providers must make significant steps forward in the art-of-the-possible in the patience experience. The trends above are good, middle-of-the-road improvements that can quickly lead to a significantly transformed overall patience experience while providing an on-ramp to powerful strategic capabilities that can provide differentiation, better care, and higher patient satisfaction. Smart providers will therefore look to proactively disrupt their own patient experience with these capabilities before their competition can in 2017.

Learn more about how communities can transform your healthcare organization.

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