Feature Story

Time to Prescribe a New Digital Patient Experience

Cisco's 2017 Consumer Perceptions study finds healthcare lagging behind in digital interactions., Digitization offers consumers convenience, speed, and simplicity.Digitization offers the chance to improve healthcare convenience, speed, and accessibility.

Consumers expect digital convenience; healthcare providers aren't delivering fast enough.

Consumers are accustomed to super convenient online/digital experiences in retail, entertainment, increasingly in education and even government. But when it comes to healthcare, patients often are unable to source test results, email a doctor, or even request a prescription refill online.

While healthcare is innately a face-to-face industry, a digital healthcare experience offers patients and providers a level of convenience that is not only the norm across industries, but expected by consumers. Consumers are ready, and providers are now, more than ever, in a position to launch the industry into the future by digitizing records and even services.

Cisco's 2017 Consumer Perceptions study finds healthcare lagging behind in digital interactions.

Hospitals across the world are developing patient experience initiatives, led by patients, families, as well as hospital staff and Chief Experience Officers. In Cisco's Consumer Perceptions Study, which surveyed customers’ digital interactions across industries last year, healthcare patients indicated they expect digital interactions to grow 32 percent in the next two years — the most bullish industry surveyed. Online and mobile application interactions accounted for the growth, where consumers stated they expect their use & interaction to grow 95 percent and 46 percent respectively, in just two years. Healthcare consumers are clearly signaling a buy-in to digital healthcare.

While healthcare is, and continues to be, primarily an in-person experience, digital engagements can support and enhance the customer experience. When Chief Experience Officers incorporate digital interactions into the customer journey, they can optimize the patient experience—providing the right information at the right time. When patients and providers receive the right information (health history, test results, doctor communications, diagnosis, and more) at the right time, providers become more efficient, optimize costs, and save lives.

Undeniably, providers have been in the spotlight, heavily scrutinized to ensure patient privacy and a key target for cyber criminals. The threat of data breaches and regulatory penalties cause many hospitals to halt digital initiatives. Cisco's Cybersecurity as a Growth Advantage research paper reported that 71 percent of respondents said cybersecurity risks and threats hinder innovation, and 39 percent said their organization had halted a mission-critical initiative due to cybersecurity concerns.

However, when companies use cybersecurity to lead innovation efforts, building security in from the start, they become “secure digitizers” and gain a competitive advantage, able to lead the market in innovation and occupy so-called value vacancies available only to the most digitally secure and agile companies.

Giving Customers the Digital Convenience They Find Everywhere Else

In the Consumer Perceptions Study, customer digital engagement with healthcare providers was the lowest across industries surveyed. Even digital engagement with government agencies – rarely a benchmark for market success — outranked healthcare.

Digitization offers the chance to improve healthcare convenience, speed, and accessibility.

Consumers are accustomed to easy access of information online, whether it be paying your water bill, buying movie tickets, or tracking a delivery, but many patients still have to call or revisit their doctor to receive test results from their recent annual check-up. This creates a digital experience gap across industries that healthcare patients are sensitive to and are beckoning a change. This digital experience gap also creates what the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation calls a value vacancy, defined as “a market opportunity that can be profitably exploited via digital disruption.” These value vacancies represent the upside opportunity provided by digital enhancements to existing markets.

Many incumbent healthcare providers are poised to leverage massive investments in patient portals and online medical records, which have paved the road for the kind of digital enhancements that healthcare consumers have come to expect in other markets.

Healthcare consumers shared the top benefits of digital Interaction with their healthcare provider:

  • Convenient access
  • Ability to quickly complete a transaction
  • Access to information about products or services.

Patients want to conveniently access their test results, communicate with their doctor, and refill prescriptions. The ability to schedule an appointment, complete medical history and check-in online, offer patients the ability to shorten their waiting time while facilitating providers use of online record keeping.

When describing procedures or medical alternatives, patients and providers can benefit from online resources available to help inform and educate patients on their choices available to them. These and many more use-cases for digital enhancement exist, and as providers incorporate these digital enhancements to business model, they can close the digital experiences gap with other industries.

In a marketplace where consumers are largely transient, the provider who is able to support online appointment setting, cost-transparency, access to records, and enables communication with providers, occupies the value vacancy that exists. When Chief Experience Officers turn on these digital engagements and empower the customer journey with preventative campaigns, recommending patient tests and procedures that are based on clock-work not reliant on a doctor visit, patient health and satisfaction will increase, along with hospital revenue. These capabilities have the potential to drive deep, lasting relationships with customers.

What It Takes

Improving the digital patient experience requires a collaborative effort across the executive suite, commanding the skills and talents of the CMO, CIO and, in some cases, CXO (Chief Experience Officer). Cisco’s Internet of Things study found that healthcare providers’ number-one driver of IoT initiatives was improving the customer (patient) experience.

In an interview early this year, Aetna's CEO and President Richard Benedetto shared how his company embraced digital transformation, delivering more personalized, affordable, and convenient healthcare to customers. Benedetto cited benefits including:

  • Approximately 70 percent of patients seeking virtual healthcare services online did not want to see a doctor in the following days, indicating patients got their medical questions answered sufficiently online.
  • The average customer saved at least two hours by utilizing digital services such as online consultations.
  • Overall customer satisfaction improved.

In The Next Two Years...

Consumers indicate they look forward to technology playing a larger role in their digital interactions with their healthcare providers. The majority of respondents embrace the idea of wearable technology, smart sensors, or signing into mobile applications using biometrics — if it adds to convenience and speed of access to information, and it is safe.

The survey showed a majority of respondents were sensitive to the security of their digital experience and wanted a “knowing that my information is secure.” Of course, this “knowing” is often primarily a feeling of assurance, and healthcare marketing and website designers should take a page from finance and retail’s playbook here in showcasing tools, via reassuring icons, indicating the use of security software, protocols, and other best practices.

Consumers are beckoning for innovation in healthcare, starting with the digital convenience already offered in other industries. Providers should develop their cybersecurity excellence to begin rolling out digital initiatives with confidence. Innovations in healthcare will occur; new clients may proceed with a diagnosis from virtually meeting a doctor hundreds of miles away.

As healthcare becomes more digital, incumbents will be disrupted by more agile and digitally capable and secure competitors. Both the one-on-one nature of healthcare and government protectionism are false sentinels against digital disruption — just as taxi drivers thought they would forever dominate vehicles-for-hire. Instead, the digital healthcare market is a value vacancy for incumbents or digital disruptors to occupy. Those who grab it will gain market share, customer loyalty, and competitive advantages that are healthy and long-lasting.