To meet the overall imperative to deliver higher-quality, lower-cost care, providers are stepping up their focus on the patients they serve. Medicare has created incentives to promote this behavior, too, basing a hefty share of its hospital value-based purchasing rewards and penalties on patient responses to a post-discharge survey.
Hospital officials are quickly learning that patient-centric care is good for outcomes, too. In the value-based reimbursement world that is slowly evolving, that will be good for the bottom line. “People in healthcare are good people to begin with, but this is business strategy, too,” Lee said.
Greater patient satisfaction also builds brand loyalty for healthcare systems to hold onto patients. “Consumers don't want the same old same old,” said Matthew Chambers, CIO of Baylor Scott & White Health, whose app integrates with Apple's Healthkit. “They want to be delighted in the journey just like they would be with Amazon.”
Healthcare systems must therefore differentiate themselves to win over patients. “Medicine is a vastly different industry from retail, but we can learn from it and other industries to provide a more engaging and convenient experience,” he said.
“There's a convergence of hospitality and healthcare,” said Sarah Thomas, managing director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. Getting that convergence right pays off, she said. “The hospitals with higher patient experience scores are higher financial performers.”
The rise of high-deductible health plans is driving patients to act more like consumers. “Patients paying more themselves out of pocket for their care might be invested in shopping for the hospitals with the best outcomes for the lower costs,” Thomas said.
“With consumers bearing an ever greater share of healthcare costs, they are much more engaged and are demanding more information about quality and costs and a better consumer experience,” said Ed McCallister, CIO at UPMC.
To measure how well they're performing at delivering that consumer experience, healthcare systems are using a net promoter score, a metric common in the retail industry (Apple uses it). It gauges how loyal a customer is to a provider by asking a single question: How likely are you to recommend our company, product or service to a friend or colleague?
To raise the score, healthcare systems should look beyond medicine itself, said Dr. Bob Kocher, a partner at Venrock who focuses on healthcare IT. “You can make your technology more elegant; you can make your parking better; you can have gowns that don't fly open in the back,” he said.
One way to improve experience, and to save money doing it, is to take a cue from the consumer world and go digital. “We're looking at converting a significant amount of our interactions with patients to being done over telehealth,” said Dr. Peter Fleischut, chief innovation officer at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
Apps to open communication are another way healthcare is learning from other industries. “In healthcare, we have not exactly provided the most pleasing consumer experience,” said Dr. John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. But that's changing. At Beth Israel Deaconess, patients in the ICU and their families use the MyICU app to get updates and care plans. “The patient is becoming more and more the consumer,” Halamka said.
Still, digital health has its limitations. Doctors must be trained specifically for telehealth visits, for example. Sometimes access is a problem, as it is for some patients in rural areas who have dial-up internet. And sometimes patients don't want to use telehealth in the first place. “Some people are worried about privacy,” Thomas said. “They're worried about strangers looking into their homes.”
Cost is also a limiting factor. A recent study published in Health Affairs found that telehealth didn't save money. Though telehealth visits were usually cheaper than in-person visits, they were used so frequently that they canceled out the savings, and costs actually rose.