The Engaged Digital Healthcare Consumer

The healthcare landscape today is evolving rapidly, including how patients shop for healthcare and services. Embracing digital tools which allow patients to change how they manage their healthcare is vital.

In the end, the traditional relationships between patients and healthcare delivery networks or providers is changing at the direction of the engaged digital healthcare consumer. This is certainly not an unexpected phenomenon given many other industries have introduced digital tools to benefit consumers – airline industry, retailers, and the entertainment industry (music and television).

Each of these industries have brought customer-focused tools that increase satisfaction and customer loyalty, which is the goal in healthcare. Examples from other industries include streaming services, online scheduling, apps to access account information and make payments, and ability to purchase items or services from a device.

In July 2018, Xtelligent Healthcare Media completed a consumer survey finding that 93 percent of patients expect to use digital tools that facilitate patient-provider interactions. In healthcare, digital tools exist and continue to evolve. Many organizations, including Holy Family Memorial, began their digital healthcare journey by offering electronic or e-visits. The goal was to offer patients access to providers through a device (computer, phone or tablet). Over time, additional digital options have been added including apps for scheduling, managing an individual’s health (pregnancy, weight loss, etc.) and the ability to research health information.

The same survey also found that overall, patients are looking for digital health tools that make their interactions with the healthcare system easier and more convenient. A total of 83 percent of respondents agreed that all providers should offer tools that enhance digital scheduling, online bill pay, patient-provider interaction, and patient-reported outcomes.

The challenge for healthcare providers today is how to build the digital tools that meet the demands of consumers by incorporating expectations and feedback. According to the consulting firm Deloitte, organizations that understand customer expectations and act on how consumers would like to use digital health, telemedicine, wearable monitoring and fitness devices, online resources, social media, and other technologies will likely be well-positioned to develop effective consumer engagement strategies.

It is critical for healthcare providers to listen to the voice of the customer to understand their desires related to digital healthcare. At Holy Family Memorial, a patient advisory council helps us address the needs of the consumer.

While advancements have been made, the healthcare industry as whole is behind other industries in relation to engaging the digital healthcare consumer. Expect to see a greater demand for digital tools by consumers and greater emphasis by healthcare providers over the next year, and healthcare providers working to win the loyalty of healthcare consumers. This includes and evolving digital healthcare strategy at Holy Family Memorial.

About the author.

Brett Norell is president and chief executive officer at Holy Family Memorial. Reach him at bnorell@hfmhealth.org.