Today’s connected consumers have grown accustomed to seamless and personalized experiences across categories—whether they’re ordering groceries through an app, streaming movies across devices or buying clothes online. Offering consumers the ability to make quick, simple and seamless decisions throughout their journey has become table stakes for consumer-driven industries. Most brands are held to this standard. They need to keep up and deliver or suffer the consequences: “Even when people love a company or product, 59% will walk away after several bad experiences, 17% after just one bad experience,” according to PwC.
But in healthcare, consumers don’t have that same power. It is difficult to simply walk away from your health needs. And given the industry’s complex reimbursement models and regulatory constraints, healthcare has historically lacked the simplicity and interconnectedness found in many consumer brands, making it challenging for patients to get the prescriptions, medical reimbursement or general care they need.
As we emerge from the pandemic, the healthcare system is changing. The rise of telemedicine, online pharmacies, healthcare startups and digital tools have marked the shift toward making healthcare more personalized. In this shift, it’s crucial to remember that customer experiences—and even more so patient experiences—require a proper balance of technology and human interaction. While modern technology is necessary for positive customer experiences and for the future more broadly, we shouldn’t lose sight of the need for authentic and empathetic human connection.
If marketers treat healthcare the way they would any other consumer-driven space, they could make a significant change in regulated industries such as healthcare.
The Perfect Pair: Digital Disruption And The Human Touch
The healthcare industry is ripe for innovation, creating opportunities for consumer-facing tech giants like Amazon, Google and Microsoft to disrupt it along with new venture-capital-backed startups. A large part of this disruption centers on a reimagined patient experience.
For example, Amazon Care launched in 2019—and is back in the news in 2022—to “bring the most patient-centric healthcare to customers when and where they need it,” taking learnings and tactics from the company’s e-commerce operations to increase access to healthcare with integrated virtual care options. But even a tech giant like Amazon knows that these digital enhancements need to be rounded out with a dose of humanity, as in-person care options are part of Amazon Care.
Retail pharmacy is another area where patient-centric innovation has taken off. In underserved parts of the country and in healthcare deserts across the U.S., telemedicine has provided a lifeline to patients, but the human touch of a pharmacist practicing at the top of their license, explaining treatment plans and potential side effects, is key to driving better outcomes.
Human connection is essential to true patient-centricity. Every experience should be infused with it so that consumers feel supported and valued. Health is personal and oftentimes emotional. This means that empathy is key to establishing and maintaining trust, which is the crux of a positive patient experience.
I look at my own experiences with medicine and technology as an example of how digital tools can be paired with the human touch to drive engagement and better outcomes. As a rare cancer survivor, regular lab work is an essential part of my holistic care. Like many cancer survivors, I live with radiation-induced side effects from treatment and manage them by seeing my care team regularly. Recently, some of my lab results came back abnormal, and my doctor recommended a 10-day study using a continuous monitor that tracks my glucose levels and reports them to a smartphone application and my doctor’s electronic health record system. The digital tool offers incredible data, but the insight comes through the human touch of my trusted physician; in other words, it’s not technology or humanity—it’s both.
Finding a balance—or in healthcare, a symbiotic relationship—between digital tools and human engagement ensures patients are getting the best of both worlds. According to PwC, “nearly 80% of American consumers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience.” Consumer brands, and especially healthcare brands, should focus on implementing and refining technology that supports these principles while incorporating real people in order to achieve the best outcomes.
Tangible Methods For Creating Seamless Experiences
In healthcare, an issue resulting in patient complexities is the lack of back-end integration between healthcare providers, payers and insurance companies, pharmacists, appointment schedulers, health records and more. Patients need a more connected way to holistically manage their care. Every piece of the patient experience should work on the back end.
Marketers, especially in healthcare, should always keep the customer or patient at the center. Tangible solutions include:
Not every marketer can (or should!) be an expert in digital, customer or patient experiences. Consider bringing on new talent to ensure seamless experiences, whether it’s a chief patient officer, chief digital platforms officer or chief experience officer. Being armed with the expertise can only make a positive difference.
Consumers are accustomed to predictive and intelligent tools, like Netflix’s recommendations based on watch history or Gmail’s suggested email responses. Implementing intelligent tools makes the process easier and more intuitive for the patient.
Data is key in creating personalized interactions at every touch point. Combining clinical and lifestyle data creates a better understanding of the data as people, along with their needs. From there, marketers can tailor communications in a more effective way.
The whole journey:
One of the best ways to understand how to integrate all touch points is by mapping the patient journey and understanding how that journey may differ depending on demographics. This approach highlights existing gaps and opportunities for simplification.
Healthcare is poised for continued transformation in an increasingly patient-centric way. By taking cues from more traditional consumer-oriented companies, healthcare will benefit by making customer experiences that are hyper-connected, convenient and human. This will build trust, a point of differentiation and reputation, while also helping patients make better decisions.