Apps aren’t enough

Health care organizations are focused on increasing patient engagement and improving patient satisfaction. As consumers, our expectations are high. We are used to doing many tasks online with an canstockphoto29459472end to end digital experience in the retail, financial, and travel industries. Health care is clearly playing catch up.

But can we blame software limitations and hope for technology solutions when talking about what we need to do? I’ll be the first to say there is probably an app for any problem. But, it’s not just about technology.

Health care is a high touch business for clinicians and support staff. The processes and workflows have to work hand in hand with technology. Think about your experience seeing your doctor. Making the appointment, checking in, checking out, handling your co-pay, and getting referrals scheduled should be simple, consistent, and most importantly patient centered.

Culture is critical. Every person you encounter in your health care journey should have your best interest and satisfaction as their priority. After all, we care for people. It’s all about basic customer service, it’s not rocket science.

I recently had my annual physical back at University of Michigan Health System. I had let this important health step lag for more than a year. My PCP was incredibly thorough and provided me with a number of referrals. When she was done with me I was able to walk down the hall and get my blood work done. And I was able to get squeezed in for a mammogram that day.

The same day service exceeded my expectations. When I left, I had in hand the other referrals to schedule at my convenience. I don’t often get back to those right away – I doubt that I’m atypical in that.  But, I’ve already gotten proactive phone calls from those clinical services to schedule me. That’s the kind of comprehensive, accessible, patient centered service we all want and should expect of our health care providers.

I’m in the “healthy well” category. I take only one prescription pill for a thyroid condition.  Although I have an account, I rarely use the patient portal. But for people with chronic conditions, many medications, and frequent doctor visits a robust patient portal and easy to use mobile health apps are much more important to supplement direct contact with a clinician.

But a patient portal is only as good as the back end processes in the physician practice. If your online request for a prescription refill goes unanswered for days, the fact that you have used an online service will seem useless and frustrating.

According to an Accenture white paper titled “Losing Patience: Why Healthcare Providers Need to Up Their Mobile Game”, more than half of health consumers would like to use their smartphones to interact with healthcare providers. Their analysis shows that hospitals are reaching just 2 percent of their patient populations through mobile applications. They go on to say that based on mobile apps available via Google Play and iTune apps stores, only 11 percent of providers have proprietary apps that satisfy at least one of the three functions consumers want the most – access to medical records, ability to book, change or cancel appointments, and prescription refill requests.

Yes, we have a long way to go in health care. There were plenty of signs at HIMSS16 last week that vendors and providers are focused on patient engagement with various solutions. As we provide technology solutions, let’s make sure we’re taking a holistic approach and including the operational processes to support the online capability and apps we provide, so that every person consistently delivers the best possible customer service.

2 thoughts on “Apps aren’t enough

  1. You describe the reality of healthcare I.T. these days. Yes, ‘there’s an app for that’, but adoption is dependent on partnership. The portal is a perfect example of one sided engagement – it leads to complacence on either the patient or the practice. It’s incumbent on vendors to engage and continuously consult clients on the best model for success, (despite preconceived notions), but also be nimble enough to persevere if implementation or adoption gets rough. Sounds like you had a positive experience, and therefore told people about it. However – there’re probably 10 negative yelp reviews out there for every positive review. Same goes in vendor communities. Great service is often rewarded quietly with referrals. Otherwise poor experiences get dragged through the blogs like Healthcare IT rubbernecking. Enjoying the Blog. Go Blue.

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