The pandemic has clearly exposed diverse weaknesses in healthcare systems globally, including inefficient workflows and barriers to timely care delivery. To the credit of healthcare providers, they took up the challenge and tried to streamline their work as much as possible on the go, turning to medical software development for new tools and optimizing their existing automation systems.
As a result, we’ve witnessed the rise of such technologies as telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, and wearables. However, there’s a looming question — will these tools persist after the pandemic or will they fade away? In this regard, a look into patients’ requirements and expectations may help.
The new patient persona
The pandemic has changed patients just as much as providers. They are no longer passive individuals who follow their doctors’ recommendations without extra questions. They are ready to assume responsibility for their health, so they don’t hesitate to engage in their health management.
These changes have motivated providers to reconsider patient personas to be able to provide relevant experiences. These are some key features to introduce to patient-facing solutions for this purpose:
- Mobile responsiveness: today’s patients prefer to manage their health from anyplace anytime, and mobile support is a top priority for this matter.
- A scheduling assistant: there is no one-size-fits-all approach here. It may be a chatbot or an intuitive table a patient can navigate. The main point is the ease of use.
- 24/7 communication channels.
- Integration with EHR to enable self-care.
- Patient education: to alleviate patients’ anxiety during the pandemic, providers strived to deliver authoritative medical information via patient portals, mobile apps, or handy chatbots. This was the case with UCHealth’s chatbot Livi, chatbot Grace from Providence St. Joseph in New York, and many more.
- PGHD integration: integrating wearables and app data and adding it automatically to a patient’s EHR may speed up diagnostics and power timely prevention.
Better technology acceptance
Quarantine measures, stay-at-home policy, and reduced social interactions alone hampered patient experience. The situation was especially difficult for chronic condition patients and other vulnerable populations. When it came to introducing telehealth solutions, providers feared that new digital tools could turn patients away.
Nevertheless, patients accepted telehealth technology with ease. They got access to quality care within the comfort of their home, with no need to go to a provider’s office and risk their health.
Contrary to providers’ fears, vulnerable patient populations greatly benefited from telehealth tools. For many chronic condition patients, telemedicine, especially coupled with AR or VR, has delivered a life-changing experience. XRHealth, for instance, assists patients suffering from chronic pain, stress, and other conditions, by providing relevant VR-powered exercises and specific digital support groups for patients to communicate and share their experiences. Telehealth and other remote care technologies proved equally benign to patients living in isolated or rural areas.
However, there is a pitfall to consider.
Even though such digital services are in demand right now, providers have to ensure their quality in the long run to retain users’ interest. Additionally, if a patient has some difficulties connecting, the assigned clinician should be able to guide them through the process and ensure the remote consultation’s success.
In the pandemic, this may put extra strain on doctors and contribute to their frustration and burnout. A 2019 study comprising the data on about one million virtual visits reported that telehealth doubled their weekly workload. Luckily, there is a way to mitigate this through easy-to-digest training materials for both doctors and patients to minimize the burden.
A digital front door
Patients do love virtual care, and about 50% of patients are disposed to change their provider if it offers a poor digital experience. This understanding has given rise to a new concept—a digital front door, which is a strategy of providing a seamless patient experience at each digital touchpoint of the patient journey.
The patient journey consists of five basic steps—deciding to explore care options, studying the care options available in the vicinity, choosing a suitable provider, scheduling an appointment, and visiting a care point (virtual or real). So how to open the digital front door for patients at these stages?
Luckily, providers might have already done so. The pandemic has forced them to increase their digital presence and offer a range of tools to deliver a positive patient experience online. Nevertheless, some tool refinement may be required, and patient experience surveys can come in handy in this regard. However, it’s important to remember that any improvements should be incremental. Introducing them all at once may actually worsen patient experience due to their perceived complexity.
At the same time, the digital front door and communication channels need to be secured to prevent malicious attacks and fraud, which increases manifold in times of crisis. To prevent such incidents, providers need to stay alert. Regular security testing, improvements based on its results, and clinicians’ training may help lower the risks.
Creating a positive post-pandemic patient experience is not an easy task. However, providers may have already done a lion’s share of work in this direction. How so?
The majority of providers have introduced telehealth and telemedicine solutions to protect their patients from coronavirus exposure. Moreover, many of them may have acknowledged the importance of PGHD and ensured its integration into patient profiles. They may also have taken some effort to ensure their patients are well-informed about the pandemic situation in their vicinity and the tips to manage the symptoms.
All this is likely to help patients engage in their health management better, acting like their provider’s partner, not simply a customer.