Why the digital patient experience is critical to healthcare

Traditionally, healthcare has always been a physician-led experience.

It would involve a linear sequence of a patient experiencing symptoms, booking an appointment, finding a diagnosis and then treating or managing it. This meant a few key drawbacks though:

  • Data on events happening outside the physician’s office weren’t captured
  • Emotions and behaviours were not considered, which can impact treatment
  • Self-monitoring and self-management is harder to implement
  • A generic approach had to be administered, which didn’t take a patient’s individual circumstances into account

A big reason for this process was the fact that patients didn’t have access to the information or expertise that they needed.

But things have changed. Now, one in every 20 Google searches is related to health, according to research by Iqvia.

This drastic improvement and increase in accessibility to information has completely transformed the perception of healthcare; it’s empowered patients to take their health into their own hands, seek out answers there and then – rather than waiting until the next available appointment.

Now, the digital journey for a patient doesn’t start and end with the physician inputting data – it’s the moment a patient decides to look for a solution.

What’s the digital experience journey for patients now?

More people are taking a more active role in their health than ever before – from heart rate monitors via smart watches to sleep quality apps, the growing market for wearables and SportTech is testament to that.

But when it comes to patients, there are usually five stages to their digital experience:

  1. Awareness: A patient will find, browse and use a service
  2. Consideration: They will cross-check an organisation with other providers based on a set of criteria, such as content quality, navigation and site accessibility
  3. Selection: A patient will book an appointment, fill in a form, start a live chat or look up on-demand resources
  4. Treatment: A caregiver will carry out an appointment or live chat; prescriptions or on-real-time diagnostics can be given
  5. Loyalty: The patient may set up appointment or prescription reminders, pay bills or start a wellness programme

This journey shows that patients are having a greater say over how their care is shaped – it’s not simply about being told what to do by a local doctor anymore. For pharmacy companies, it means they need to think about patient experiences, not just selling to physicians.

When it comes to the initial research on their symptoms and the right healthcare solutions for them, there’s no end to the options that digitally-savvy providers can give.

Patients can look for symptoms themselves, learn more about the reputations of organisations online, and use things like social media, blogs, forums, mobile apps and websites to support a diagnosis, manage an illness or build their understanding of a disease.

“It’s important to make everything more seamless, in an industry like healthcare that’s always evolving,” said Fabrice Teixeira, one of our most experienced team members when it comes to healthcare and healthtech projects.

“Patients should have more options available to them; they expect (and deserve) a better experience with their health, even with things like how they interact with their GP.”

So – the journey is becoming more patient-centric, and there are three critical areas of importance for the modern patient:

  • Access
  • Patient experience and satisfaction
  • Patient outcomes and safety

Accessibility is the key

A website or app needs to provide an easy journey for modern patients to get the information they need to book appointments and order prescriptions remotely.

Even if that person suffers with bad eyesight or lives in an area with poor phone reception, it’s vital that websites are just as accessible to them as anyone else.

Plus, it’s important to guard against unintended bias or exclusion. If a website’s biased (even unintentionally) towards people with 20:20 vision or excludes certain religions or ages through the content of the website, that person can’t or won’t engage with your organisation and their digital journey will stop.

So, how do we stop this happening? How can we cater to as wide a user base as possible? Through accessible and consistent design and rigorous user testing, you can ensure that everybody has access to that website.

Before we even begin a project, we do a real deep-dive into the demographics and pain points of accessing a website with a client – but in terms of regulations, services need to meet level AA of WCAG 2.1, which means we need to test the accessibility internally before go-live just to meet these standards.

We give assessors a sample of pages such as the homepage, content pages and interactive tools so that we can demonstrate accessibility and inclusivity. All pages should be tested for people using different browsers and in case people require potential assistive technology.

A lack of accessibility will stop or hinder a patient’s digital journey in healthcare, but the impact of digital can extend far beyond this first interaction with a user.

Prevention is better than cure

Outside of the typical online journey for a modern patient though, digital can also play a massive role in keeping people healthier for longer.

For example, remote monitoring and wearable devices give patients and service users more control of their own healthcare to detect warning signs quicker.

We’re HealthTech integration specialists, and a great example of this from our own portfolio of clients was the care home provider Suvera, who’s staff can upload a resident’s vital signs directly to an EHR (Electronic Health Record).

When a GP next accesses the records, this information could prove vital when diagnosing an issue or finding the best prescription or treatment for that patient.

Our project with Feebris also allows practitioners to upload vital signs such as temperatures, heart rates and blood pressures directly to a patient’s EHR through a mobile app. It opens up the transparency of a patient’s history to provide a more holistic and fuller treatment plan.

This increased accessibility to health records we provide helps clinicians make more informed decisions faster.

What does the future look like?

In our view, there are two key trends to watch out for in this space:

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is sure to play an even greater role in improving a patient’s digital journey. AI can help staff perform administrative tasks, which frees them up to focus on looking after patients. It can also be used to support clinical decisions through accessing data across EHRs.
  2. Voice-based virtual health assistants will also be able to answer medical questions, perform a preliminary diagnosis and even perform tasks such as making appointments, syncing calendars and calling an Uber. It promises to further streamline the modern patient’s digital journey in healthcare, improving a patient’s experience while negating the need to attend physical appointments.

That’s why 6B is so committed to giving future-proofed solutions using our technical expertise – we want patients to receive treatment faster (and with better outcomes) than was previously thought possible.

Do you need advice for your healthcare project?

Want to tap into our expertise on healthcare integration, user testing and web design?

Contact 6B today and speak with one of our advisers.

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