Patient Satisfaction News

Are Health Orgs Doing Enough to Support Consumer Experience?

Most healthcare organizations are underperforming in consumer experience because they are not on the same page as their patients.

healthcare consumer experience

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- When it comes to driving patient and consumer experience, healthcare organizations aren’t up to snuff, reported Kaufman Hall in the findings in its 2017 State of Consumerism survey.

Consumers are benefitting from an increasingly convenient market experience. Between digital video streaming and same-day delivery of goods, consumers have come to expect a high-quality and convenient way to get what they need.

Healthcare should be following suit, but it’s not, the Kaufman Hall researchers said.

Patients are also paying more for their healthcare than ever before. With this increased purchasing power, patient and consumer preferences should be influencing more of the healthcare industry.

But fewer than one in 10 of the over 125 healthcare organizations surveyed put high priority on meeting consumer preferences and carrying out the necessary actions to meet those preferences.

READ MORE: How Consumers and Providers See Patient Engagement Differently

In all, organizations are falling behind in key areas including convenient care access, patient engagement technology, cohesion of patient and provider expectations, and patient-centered billing.

To demonstrate its findings, Kaufman Hall established a four-tier system to represent the progress some healthcare organizations are making, with the first tier denoting high priority and effective efforts for consumer experience and the fourth tier representing low priority and limited efforts.

Most hospitals are within the bottom two tiers for overall consumer experience, due in part to the problematic disparity between patient and provider expectations. The survey showed that providers and patients don’t have the same idea of what constitutes a positive consumer experience.

Hospitals and the healthcare industry rank positive experience indicators as follows:

  • Quality of clinical outcomes
  • Availability of complex care and treatment
  • Accessibility of care
  • Geographic coverage
  • Consumer experience

In contrast, patients rank positive experience indicators as follows:

  • Accessibility of care
  • Consumer experience
  • Quality of clinical outcomes
  • Value
  • Availability of complex care and treatment

READ MORE: Retail Consumer Experience Key in Consumer-Driven Healthcare

Organizations are being too reactive about experience, instead of using effective, proactive strategies, the survey authors said.

When organizations do use new improvement techniques, those efforts are not translating with patients.

Organization respondents said they are currently working on long wait times, patient billing simplification, real-time provider feedback, and staff behavior. Few patients are seeing these effects, with only five percent of patients saying they noticed changes in appointment wait times, for example.

This disparity in expectations between patients and providers may be due to poor data collection. The survey showed that hospitals are not leveraging effective insights into patient experience preferences, with 53 percent of respondents ranking in the bottom tier for using consumer engagement insight data.

Most organizations are using outdated methods for gleaning patient insights, such as post-visit surveys, quantitative research, and internal data analysis. Only 34 percent of hospitals are using real-time patient feedback tools and 23 percent are using advanced data analytics.

READ MORE: How Hospitals Can Raise Patient Satisfaction, CAHPS Scores

Few organizations consistently apply the data they do have, barring them from gleaning effective insights.

This disconnect is having adverse effects in all elements of patient experience, the survey showed. Most hospitals surveyed fell within tier three for all patient experience efforts, leaving them behind the curve for convenient care access, patient engagement technology use, and effective patient billing.

Forty-one percent of organizations fell within tier three for convenient care access. Although nearly three-quarters of organizations claim they want to offer multiple access points for varying degrees of health needs, only 25 percent have the tools to make this a reality.

About 40 percent of organizations offer limited urgent care center and imaging center access, but 47 percent of organizations have no partnerships with any retail clinics at all. This is problematic because patients tend to like retail clinics because of the low cost and high convenience.

To their credit, organizations are making efforts in the facilities they do have. Most organizations are either working on or have in place extended office hours, extended hours for diagnostic care, secure messaging for patients and providers, and same-day appointment availability.

Access to patient engagement technology doesn’t fare much better, the survey revealed. Fifty-eight percent of respondents reported wanting to use more engagement technology, but only 14 percent are doing that. While patient portal adoption is fairly widespread (69 percent adoption, per this survey), other forms of technology are lagging.

Only 27 percent of organizations offer virtual care, and nearly one-quarter of hospitals aren’t working on integrating connected care into their offerings.

Healthcare organizations are also lacking patient-centered billing. Seventy-two percent of hospitals fell within the bottom tier for their patient billing efforts. Only three percent ranked in the top tier.

Fifty-nine percent of organizations stated that they respond to phone calls about patient billing, a practice the report says all hospitals should be doing. Note that telephone communication about patient billing is also quickly becoming outdated as digitized billing procedures take rise and offer more efficient communication.

Less than one-quarter of hospitals offer online price listings or cost estimates. Eighteen percent of hospitals aren’t offering any kind of price transparency.

More price transparency may prove increasingly important as more patients bear more of their own healthcare costs. Patients need to anticipate their healthcare costs to successfully budget, lest they forego care altogether due to financial restrictions.

These surveys do not highlight a lack of willingness to improve consumer experience on the part of healthcare organizations. Ninety percent of respondents said improving the consumer experience is important to their bottom line. Instead, the survey authors contended that organizations are approaching patient experience from the wrong angle.

Going forward, healthcare organizations must weave patient experience into each of their quality improvement efforts.

Patient experience is often siloed into its own set of strategies, but that is not always beneficial, the survey authors said.

Delivering satisfaction at every step of the care experience is important. For example, streamlining the front-office part of the business might be a quality and efficiency improvement, but it can also deliver on patient experience.

Hospitals can improve this process by defining their value proposition. Looking at different aspects of the organization, organizational goals, and where the organization stands across the industry will be important. Spelling this out to patients will help drive improvement.

Hospitals will be successful if they become experts in basic experience activities. Becoming advanced at patient-centered appointment scheduling can drive satisfaction throughout different parts of the organization, for example.

Hospitals should also work to reimagine growth. Instead of targeting improvements in traditional in-patient and out-patient care, hospitals should look to expand outward using digital visits and alternative care sites.

The survey results should be a call to action for organization leaders, said Kaufman Hall managing director Paul Crnkovich. As the industry continues its consumer-centric shift, it will be important for organization bottom lines for leaders to embrace effective strategies that serve consumers.

“The findings should serve as a wake-up call for hospital and health system leaders across the country,” Crnkovich said in a statement.

“In the age of Amazon and Netflix, consumers expect more from their healthcare providers,” Crnkovich added. “For healthcare executives, consumerism should not be just another item to be checked off a list. It should be a core capability, as it is key to long-term growth.”


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