Knock, knock, knockin' on the digital front door
Photo: Gozio Health
Patient portals have become a more important patient engagement tool than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, not only serving as the digital front door for healthcare provider organizations but also as the primary way for communicating with physicians and nurses and even receiving care through telehealth.
Many patients have grown accustomed to this digital healthcare, even preferring it, while many patients yearn for in-person care, though they still can benefit from mobile patient engagement technologies.
What can provider organizations do to continue to appeal to all of these patients with digital health tools, and what can they do to bolster their digital front door offerings?
Healthcare IT News interviewed Joshua Titus, CEO and founder of Gozio Health, a mobile patient engagement IT vendor, to dive into this subject and explore some of the technologies involved.
Q: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more healthcare encounters shifted to a virtual format. Suddenly, many consumers desire digital health that simplifies access to care and care information and enhances the patient experience. How should healthcare provider organizations respond to this situation post-pandemic?
A: The rapid shift to virtual care during COVID-19 showed patients what is possible in healthcare. As the world shut down, more communication channels between providers and patients opened up to protect access to care without risking exposure to the virus.
The pandemic quickly pulled us forward into the future, and there's no turning back. Healthcare organizations now understand how a mobile strategy – even when cobbled together in haste – can strengthen patient care and engagement as well as their bottom line.
But providing lasting value requires that healthcare organizations go beyond telehealth by leveraging digital solutions to address patients' comprehensive needs, from access to medical records to online bill payment.
They must also develop digital health strategies that integrate seamlessly into patients' busy lives. By using digital solutions to meet patients where they are, healthcare organizations can elevate quality of care and the patient experience while increasing efficiency and reducing costs.
Q: Healthcare often is very fragmented, resulting in a disjointed patient experience. What can digital platforms do to help resolve this challenge?
A: From frustration in scheduling appointments to difficulties in sharing information across points of care, fragmented healthcare causes friction at every stage of a patient's journey. Digital health platforms have a unique opportunity to effect meaningful change by bringing together siloed systems, creating a more seamless patient experience.
Leading platforms leverage user data to determine which solutions patients most want from a healthcare app, from assistance in navigating the hospital to entry points for virtual care. They also draw from the organization's customer service data to determine where pain points exist in the patient journey. With a flexible platform, developers can use this data to easily adjust the app's offerings to meet the needs of the population the healthcare organization serves.
It's important to note that there is no "one size fits all" digital health solution. The best platforms are extremely agile, with the ability to add new functionality or services when circumstances change. They are also developed with a deep understanding of how different patient populations interact with the healthcare system.
By taking the perspectives of specific populations into account, healthcare organizations can create digital experiences that eliminate fragmented care and ensure patients receive the appropriate support.
Q: Can location-aware technologies like geofencing and mobile wayfinding, used to great effect in other industries, help healthcare organizations with the patient experience?
A: Absolutely. The best apps act as a companion to patients throughout their journey. They use location-aware technologies to guide patients from their home to the parking lot, to the appropriate entrance to each department they must visit.
They advise patients when they must stop to obtain a badge before continuing on their journey or when a trip to patient registration may be necessary. Every destination in a patient's encounter is mapped out on their phone from one point to the next, eliminating the stress of navigating a hospital environment.
The most robust location-aware platforms give healthcare organizations the ability to redirect traffic when circumstances change, such as during the first months of COVID-19. They even help patients remember where they parked.
Newer platforms also provide location-aware analytics that hospitals use to gain insight into user behavior. These insights inform and empower operational adjustments that enhance the patient experience.
For healthcare organizations, wayfinding is, quite literally, a way to get patients in the door and to the point of care. After the encounter, leading platforms continue to engage patients with services from medical record access to online bill pay. These touches increase the odds that patients will be back again.