How to Improve a Patient's Digital Experience

June 1, 2016

The healthcare industry is looking for innovative ways to use digital and mobile technology to improve patient engagement rates and the success rate of the care given to patients. There are many ways that this new era of digital healthcare is coming into fruition - by scheduling, communication with the doctor, symptom checkers, advice, guidance and much more. The goal of this new digital healthcare technology is to save time and ultimately money.

Some of the earlier findings from these digital healthcare advancements have shown that patients tend to stay healthier for longer with the additional access to online resources and help. One challenge doctors faced before the the rise of digital was ensuring that patients stuck to their treatment plan effectively. Typically, patients don't keep to their medical plans as well as one would hope between visits to see the doctor. Digital technologies have become an additional support system for patients enabling them to stay on track more efficiently. It is clear that there is a place for digital innovation in healthcare and this article dives into some of the ways to improve the patient's experience step-by-step to guarantee success.

Understanding the User Journey

As with any industry, the first place to start is to evaluate your user. You want to understand the full scope of the user journey from the first touchpoint with the healthcare brand, to the last. The struggle here is that there are multiple different types of user experiences, dependent on the size of the healthcare organisation. There are ER patients, GP patients, specialist doctor patients, pediatric patients, pregnant women, cancer patients and so on, all getting different types of treatment. One thing to note with each different journey is that the basic path is relatively similar.The patient has a trigger (an illness that makes them want to seek medical attention)The patient turns to their phone, tablet or desktop to conduct some initial research into the ailmentThe patient goes to the doctors to be treatedThe patient enters an aftercare treatment program until they are healed/betterTypically in other industries, companies will invest in new digital technology earlier in the user journey to drive conversions, but in healthcare this extra information or monitoring can come at any touchpoint along the way.

Recognising Your Business Goals

As well as understanding the user journey, healthcare establishments need to pinpoint their overall business goals and ensure that each new digital strategy and tactic aligns to one of these goals. Depending on the size of the organisation, there may be many, many goals and therefore lots of breadth to experiment with new initiatives. Here are a couple of examples of business goals:

Example 1:

Goal: To reduce the amount of unnecessary visits due to patients neglecting treatment plans. This will safe the institute money.Focus Group: To improve how we monitor patients suffering with diabetes between doctor's visitsTools: User app that provides users with daily reminders. An phone app extension that helps to monitor blood sugar levels.Measurement for success: App engagement and reduced visits by existing patients by 50%+.

Example 2:

Goal: To build a content strategy to reduce visits to the ER.Focus Group: New mums that need to understand symptoms and signals for their newborn baby.Tools: Blog designed for new mums with special filters for symptoms and signsMeasurement for success: Less visits amongst new mums to the ER.

Once you have recognised your main business goals, it is time to develop the tools and tactics to execute new initiatives and strategies built around these goals.

Develop Tools and Tactics

Once we have the user journey mapped out and the business goals identified we can begin to identify the strategies that support the business goals through the user journey. Let's imagine we are trying to improve the user experience for patients of the digestive health department.

Trigger

Typically, these patients will decide to research IBS and visit a doctor if they are having trouble with their bowel movements. In this stage, you could enter users into an email drip campaign because they visited a page on your blog relating to IBS. The drip campaign could encourage users to complete a confidential survey that helps the doctor understand the symptoms of the patient before they even visit.

Online research

This stage needs a robust content strategy that educates and supports a patient trying to understand their symptoms. It could also offer users a template to download to keep a journal of their food intake and bowel movements with the goal to track any trends before they have their first visit with the doctor. Ideally this would be wrapped up in an app, an app that can be linked to their doctor of choice after the research stage, to equip the doctor with plenty of prior information. This app would also enable the user to book an appointment quickly and efficiently.

Treatment / Aftercare

There are many ways that digital technology can support a user experience with their health provider during the treatment and aftercare phase.

  • A tablet can be used during the initial diagnosis phase to show the patient visualisations of their anatomy and symptoms so they fully understand their condition. This information can then be shared in the patient's app so they can refer to it at anytime
  • Patients can send notes, track progress and alert their doctor to any issues via an app during their aftercare. This will avoid unnecessary visits to the doctor's office as well as improve the monitoring and communication between patient and doctor on-going.
  • App extensions that you can plug into your phone can take the necessary samples and get results to send to your doctor via the app. This saves patients time and money.
  • Patients can video conference with their doctor for checkins and updates on progress.

Apps are going to be a major feature in the future of mobile. Research is showing that the mobile web will eventually disappear into the past and apps will connect the mobile world together via deep linking within apps. The key to success in apps is too keep the apps as simple as possible and avoid cramming too many things into one experience.

Optimize

Once you have your new strategy in place, it is vital to optimize and measure its success. There are always opportunities to learn from users and improve their experience. The best way to do this is by collecting actionable data and by surveying your audience to discover what works and what doesn't. From this you can adapt, optimize and improve.

The opportunities that digital offer the healthcare industry will help to make patients feel more connected to their doctor and will hopefully build up a loyalty similar to what the traditional family doctor offered not long ago. It is crucial for healthcare providers to leverage new tools and technologies to improve patient engagement, awareness and communication.

What ways have you seen an enhanced experience in digital healthcare? Tell us over on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Written by
Alexander Rauser
Alexander Rauser

CEO

Alexander Rauser is the author of Boardroom Guide to Digital Accountability and Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation, and creator of the DSX Program, a digital strategy and transformation program for Enterprises.

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