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Opinion: Health care digitization shows power of knowing your market

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Take a minute to think about your current favorite digital experience. Is it shopping from your phone on Amazon? Listening to playlists on Spotify? Connecting with friends on social networking? Or using mobile self-checkout at Sam’s Club?

These digital platforms deliver convenient, frictionless and personalized experiences that delight users and drive loyalty. As convenient, technology-driven solutions become a more common part of our lives, it’s no surprise that consumers expect the same experience from their health care providers. After all, if a hair salon can offer online self-scheduling and text appointment reminders, a health care system can follow suit.

Health care systems likely know more about their patients and customers – down to their blood types – than other industries. Using this data to provide customer-centric solutions has been a priority for systems in recent years. However, navigating the solutions can be challenging since health care is strictly regulated and personal health information is rigorously protected.

In the mid-2000s, systems ramped up efforts to deliver customer-centric digital solutions designed to reduce friction and improve convenience. One such service, telehealth visits, was offered with modest uptake. In 2020, as COVID-19 took hold, all resources were redirected to care for the sickest and to manage an overwhelming patient volume.

Fearful of contracting the virus, many individuals stayed home and were hesitant to enter hospitals for care. Suddenly, telehealth became the Hail Mary for safely caring for patients who preferred the safety and comfort of home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that during first-quarter 2020 the number of telehealth visits increased by 50% compared with the same period in 2019. During January to March 2020, most encounters were from patients seeking care for conditions other than COVID-19.

Since then, consumer expectations regarding convenient, frictionless health care have increased exponentially. Legacy health care processes once hamstrung by challenges with interoperability, decentralized work environments and cumbersome health insurance reimbursement models are being reimagined to improve customer satisfaction. Catering to user preference, mobile-first solutions are taking a front seat. The entire patient journey is being evaluated to identify and eliminate pain points. Some notable recent progress includes the following:

  1. Simpler billing solutions. Knowing that bill pay is a big pain point, much work is going into creating simpler solutions. Health care invoices may incorporate easy-pay QR codes and links to online payment portals. Robust online provider directories allow patients to review physician profiles and availability and to schedule appointments from a computer or mobile phone. Digital preregistration enables patients to complete intake forms in advance of appointment arrival. Patient portals and apps now include virtual mental health resources, prescription refill request forms, physician messaging platforms and wellness tracking.
  2. Right care, right time. Because health care is difficult to navigate, care finder tools on health care websites aim to direct patients to the right level of care – virtual visit, primary care, walk-in clinic, urgent care or emergency room – based on symptoms or acuity.
  3. Home health innovation. Health care at home is another burgeoning area benefiting from virtual solutions. Using remote patient monitoring, health care professionals use digital technologies to collect and monitor vital signs and other data from patients who are residing in their normal environment. Also, individuals recovering from surgery and other acute illness can access hospital-at-home solutions, which have been proven to elevate patient satisfaction and potentially reduce hospital readmissions.

The commitment to creating experiences that put the preferences of the consumer first is evident in the new leadership positions emerging in health care. Titles like chief transformation officer, chief digital officer and chief consumer experience officer have been established in the past several years, marking a sea change in how health systems seek to transform their relationship with consumers.

By prioritizing consumer engagement, health systems hope to elevate patient satisfaction, compliance and outcomes while improving process efficiency through digital technology. Systems are incorporating design thinking and human-centered design methodologies to create elegant solutions rooted in user behavior and feedback. Through these innovations, consumers are empowered with the tools they need to manage their health and have a more personalized, customized health care experience. Health care on the consumers’ terms is taking center stage like never before.

Jann Holland is vice president of marketing and communications at CoxHealth. She can be reached at


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