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April 5, 2021

The perfect digital front door: Highlights from a discussion about patient engagement

Patients are consumers. More importantly, they are human.

That was the overriding theme during a recent panel discussion that was part of Healthcare Innovation’s March digital healthcare delivery series. The panel, “Patient Engagement – Navigating the New Patient Experience and Building the Perfect Digital Front Door” featured leaders from Intermountain Healthcare, Mulesoft, and Bright.md’s own Dr. Ray Costantini in a lively discussion about the important role patient engagement will play as healthcare systems recover from the global pandemic.

With more choices than ever before, patients are in the driver’s seat when it comes to how—and where—they get care. The first step in building the perfect digital front door is understanding how patient preferences have changed in the wake of COVID-19, as well as what hasn’t changed, and aligning those preferences with digital tools that meet patients where they are.

The panel participants offered insights into how to do just that. Here are a few of the discussion points that stood out.

Give patients tools—and information—that empower them to partner in their own healthcare

Increasingly, patients want to own their health information. The idea that large chunks of it live inside a locked digital record they don’t have access to is antiquated. Or, as Jason Rothbart , Area Vice President, MuleSoft National Payer and Provider, put it:

“I own the patient record or all this data is locked up, and the patient only gets to see it when they come visit us? We need to blow that idea up. How can the patient own that process where they take responsibility as well to take care of themselves and follow through on meds or exercise. And how does the patient interact with us and partner with us?”

Technology should humanize care

Before starting his tenure in healthcare three years ago, Kevan Mabutt, Senior Vice President and Chief Consumer Officer at Intermountain Healthcare, worked in consumer experience for Disney. He’s come to see that consumer expectations aren’t that different from what we expect as patients.

“If I really think about what consumerism is, and what consumer digital solutions look like, it’s about enabling the profoundly human interaction between, say, a physician and a patient. The tech should enable that, not get in the way of it.”

And, as Michael Woodruff, Intermountain Healthcare’s Chief Patient Experience Officer, reminded us, providers are human too, and the tech needs to work for them as well:

“The concept is getting people to work at the top of their license so that we’re getting the maximum value out of the humans we have in the system. And that goes for the technical skills, but also the caring that humans can do for each other. The challenge ahead of us is, how do we design systems that maximize the potential of our human participants in the healthcare process?”

Ensure a consistently excellent experience across all care touchpoints

Engaging patients through your digital front door is critical, but it’s only the first step. What happens after they enter is just as important.

Kevan Mabutt shared: “Now we can have you schedule online in the palm of your hand, but if you show up and we’re running late and we didn’t think to tell you, that goodwill has been dropped in a second. We can now enable you to text back and forth with your provider, but if the provider is not in the habit of returning a text, you’ve introduced another pain point. So you’ve got to be very focused on the end-to-end experience, and all of the transitions between the human and the digital.”

There is such a thing as a dumb question

Digital-first experiences present opportunities to guide patients through the early part of the care process before engaging with a clinician. And this should start with the patient intake process. This creates efficiencies by streamlining one of the most annoying parts of many doctor’s visits: the dreaded paperwork patients fill out while sitting in the waiting room. Bright.md Co-Founder Dr. Ray Costantini explained this perfectly:

“Anybody who says there’s no such thing as a dumb question hasn’t sat in the waiting room and filled out seven pages of forms, and been asked what their name and date of birth is six times. If you’ve asked me for that information six times, you’ve asked five dumb questions.”

To watch the full webinar, click here.

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