Along with value-based care, patient engagement is one of the most visible and important pillars of the transformation now underway in healthcare.
Developing a more-convenient, transparent approach to the patient journey is critical, both to the provider’s financial health and to the objective of improving quality while controlling costs.
Most healthcare organizations understand this, yet many misjudge their success in actually doing it. A recent study found that 81 percent of consumers were dissatisfied with their healthcare experience; it also revealed that providers consistently overestimated—by more than 20 percentage points—how patients perceived the quality of their experience.
Health systems, hospitals, physician groups, and ancillary providers should take note. The impact of failing to provide cost transparency, superior customer service, and easy access to services and information can be felt in multiple areas:
• Long wait times for appointments lead to lower patient satisfaction, increased no-show rates, and more use of emergency departments.
• No-shows wreak havoc on daily schedules and can delay follow-up and disease detection—which may eventually lead to complications and hospital admission. One study estimates the average cost of a no-show at $196 per patient.
• Confusion around authorizations, testing, and documentation can interfere with referrals and care continuity. Although more than 100 million sub-specialist referrals are requested each year, only about half are completed, according to research by the Institute of Healthcare Improvement.
• Patients whose needs are not being met switch providers. In a 2017 survey, 54 percent of millennials and 24 percent of baby boomers reported having changed providers in the past year.
• Negative patient assessments lead to lost revenue, patients leaving, and fewer new patients. An Advisory Board study estimated that a 370-bed hospital system could forfeit $700,000 in new-patient revenue due to negative word of mouth. Research indicates that each patient represents $200,000 in lifetime income for the typical practice.
• Failure to collect authorizations, insurance verifications, and co-pays before each appointment can result in lost patient revenue and write-offs.
• Physicians who are compelled to address patient frustrations about non-clinical issues have less time and energy to focus on their clinical responsibilities. This, in turn, can contribute to provider burnout.
Organizations can overcome these pitfalls by adopting a systematic, end-to-end approach to enhancing the patient experience. An optimal solution incorporates proactive outreach, streamlined scheduling, visit preparation, and intuitive, easy-to-use customer interfaces. Equally important is the human touch—making sure trained, empathic staff are available to assist with every step in the patient journey.