Healthcare Business News
Robert Slepin

CHIME Time: Engaging patients as consumers

By Robert Slepin
Posted: March 28, 2014 - 1:15 pm ET

I have become a huge fan of a new innovative iPhone app that enables me to easily and quickly meet my transportation needs through a private car service. The app's user interface is simple and elegant, and the service has been an incredible experience.

Here's how it works: Open the app, point to your pickup location on a map, enter a destination address, confirm your choice of regular car or a black sedan. Click to confirm. Within seconds, a text message arrives with the driver's name, car make, model, license number and expected arrival time—usually five to seven minutes.

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When the driver is approaching, he sends you another text alerting you to his imminent arrival. The driver greets you, stows your luggage in the trunk and whisks you off to your destination in a clean car. At the end of the trip, your credit card (stored in your online profile when you registered) is automatically charged, saving minutes—even the tip is included. Later, an electronic receipt is transmitted, and a text message asks you to rate your satisfaction with the driver.

I love this service. I no longer use conventional taxis or executive car services in the cities where this company is established. It's been far more convenient, reliable, comfortable and priced the same or less than other options. As a satisfied customer, I have been happy to share my positive experience with friends via e-mail or text. When my referrals register for the service, both of us earn a $20 credit to our accounts—a nice bonus and a smart way of tapping into social networks to help this app go viral.

Healthcare providers can learn a great deal from this. How about deploying an app for locating a nearby physician or nurse practitioner and booking an appointment? What if the patient's registration, billing information and co-pay were automatically processed by the app, a receipt was generated, and the patient could rate satisfaction with the service immediately afterward? What if the patient wanted a provider who was willing to come to your home, for which he or she was willing to pay an extra $50 out of pocket? Or what if the app enabled the patient to launch an instant video visit with a provider?

Our patients increasingly expect a better experience in accessing and consuming healthcare services. Providers are beginning to respond with IT-enabled solutions. Many hospitals and physicians are implementing specialized portals and apps to increase patient engagement as part of their meaningful-use journey.

Some innovative, potentially disruptive, competitors have entered the market with new Web storefronts and mobile apps through which either 100% of their services are delivered virtually through an app or the Internet, (for example, find and schedule an appointment at a clinic) or a patient can virtually see a doctor from the comfort of a home computer and get a prescription. Other providers are conducting small-scale experiments with more advanced technologies and care management workflows, such as sending patients home with mobile apps and devices for at-home education, ongoing interactive communication with providers, and automated remote monitoring and transmission of biometric and patient-reported data.

Because providers now have numerous high-priority projects underway, it might seem an inopportune time to focus scarce IT and operations resources and capital on these kinds of new processes and tools for engaging patients. But for providers that do, opportunities for exploration and learning abound.

Healthcare CIOs can add value by identifying opportunities for leveraging information technology for engaging patients as retail consumers of healthcare services. They can guide strategy formulation and implementation for this new era of IT-enabled consumer experience.

Robert Slepin

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