- Convenience is the name of the game when it comes to supporting patient-centeredness. Between appointment scheduling and healthcare access, organizations must ensure processes are simple for all patients, including those who are generally healthy and don’t necessarily utilize services very often.
Such is the strategy for Banner Health’s Vice President of Consumer Experience Dave Kriesand. For Kriesand, taking a patient-centric approach is key for all practice improvement activities, especially those that pertain directly to patients and how the patients interact with the healthcare system.
“Healthcare organizations can overcome most challenges if they are consumer-centric,” Kriesand told PatientEngagementHIT.com via email. “Using a consumer lens is important in the design of any process, especially those where the consumer votes by where they spend their money.”
To be clear, healthcare organizations need a lot more going for them than a mission to serve the patient. Thought-out action plans, C-suite support, and a stellar clinical team are also key to boosting the patient experience, Kriesand explained.
But in an age where patients “vote with their wallets,” patient-centeredness is certainly emerging as king. As patient out-of-pocket costs continue to increase, easy healthcare access is falling by the wayside and patients who are generally healthy struggle to get convenient care access.
Many patients are neglecting their care because the majority of outpatient visits require a larger payment than a simple $15 co-pay. When the patient does reach out for treatment, it’s usually fairly urgent, Kriesand said.
“In many cases, when a consumer needs care, they need it right away,” he explained.
Patients who have strep throat or pneumonia symptoms need to see their clinicians as soon as possible to obtain prescriptions. But getting this timely access can be convoluted, as can ensuring patients see a doctor who meets their needs.
“Having tools that easily match a provider to the consumer’s preference makes access easier,” Kriesand pointed out. “What we know from our research is that the top three items consumers look for when selecting a provider are do they take my insurance, how far are they from my work/office and ratings/reviews from patients that have interacted with the provider and their clinic.”
Leveraging technology from Kyruus, Banner now has online patient-provider matching. Patients can schedule an appointment with the appropriate doctor to meet their clinical needs and personal preferences.
“Healthcare consumers now have more choice and higher out-of-pocket expenses,” Kriesand said. “It is important for us to provide them an experience with very few obstacles. We have to be easy to do business. Digital tools that simplify finding a provider can help us provide that experience.”
Making it easier for patients to find providers who meet individual patient needs is key for the overall experience, Kriesand added.
“Accurately matching patients with providers of their choosing is very important,” he said. “Finding a provider who meets a consumer’s preference, whether that be by distance, specialty, or even ratings/reviews is critical to ensuring excellent care with an excellent experience.”
Although Banner Health has implemented technology to serve patient preferences, it has also preserved its telephone appointment scheduling processes. Not all patients want to connect with their healthcare providers via the internet, Kriesand and his team reasoned.
“As healthcare continues to evolve, we want to be present in the channels where our consumers want to interact with us,” Kriesand said. “Previously, our main channel was the telephone for scheduling an appointment with a provider. Now, we will have both phone and digital, making it very easy for our consumers.”
“By having a presence in both digital and phone channels, we are available to our consumers at times and in avenues that are most convenient to them,” he continued.
Once patients do schedule their appointments, Banner continues to offer convenience through its expansive health system. The Arizona-based health system boasts three academic medical centers and 28 acute care hospitals across six states.
Banner Health is certainly well-known for its far reach, high clinical quality scores, and large medical centers. However, Banner Health has several smaller-scale facilities that are better able to serve urgent patient needs.
“We also have a thriving ambulatory division, urgent-care centers, a health plan and a pharmacy offering,” Kriesand said. “Linking all of these components together in an easy way for the consumer enables health care made easier, life made better.”
Banner is well-equipped to coordinate care across all of those points, Kriesand said, which ups the convenience factor for patients.
The health system is building a Patient Engagement Platform targeted to enhance convenience, care quality, and affordability. The Platform will allow patients to connect all of their care at various points across the health system, Kriesand explained.
“We want to ensure our customers never have to re-tell their story no matter where they arrive in our system, and that they have the ability to self-service, in the way that they prefer – email, website, social,” Kriesand said. “We want to be there for our consumers and digital tools are essential to that.”
Ultimately, digital is becoming integral to setting the patient-centered agenda. Between offering care coordination benefits and convenient appointment scheduling, health IT is key to improving the patient experience.
However, in the flurry of implementing digital technology, Kriesand cautioned healthcare organizations not to forget the patient. As he noted previously, healthcare organizations can overcome most of their challenges if they use a consumer-centric lens when targeting their solutions.
Whether it is a massive health system like Banner implementing large-scale technology improvements, or a small rural hospital adopting a new patient portal, keeping the patient top-of-mind is the key for success, Kriesand concluded.