11/13/2020

BY AMY GOAD, PRINCIPAL

A headshot of a Caucasian female in a red blouseThe focus on customer experience in healthcare is not a new concept, but one that has been catapulted to the forefront of many healthcare organization’s strategic plans given events of the past year.

Whether you are a large healthcare system or private practice, serving an urban or rural population, a payer, a pharmaceutical company or a medical technology firm, the healthcare customer experience is a key focus for industry leaders looking to compete in today’s market.

What exactly does it mean to focus on the healthcare customer experience? To answer that question, it’s important to first define the difference between a healthcare customer versus a patient.

The way I see it, someone is a customer any time they are interacting with their healthcare providers outside of the patient room. They are a customer when they:

The focus on customer experience in healthcare is not a new concept, but one that has been catapulted to the forefront of many healthcare organization’s strategic plans given events of the past year.

When you look at it this way, so much of someone’s experience beyond the confines of the immediate face-to-face patient interactions with the doctors and nurses, and there are many opportunities for customer interaction beyond providing medical care.  While a patient’s care provider is in control of the patient experience, it’s up to the corporate and administrative teams to ensure the right tools and processes are in place to optimize the customer experience.

The Customer Experience graphic

Over the past couple of years, we’ve supported our clients as they’ve shifted focus toward enhancing the healthcare customer experience through a variety of innovative initiatives. Below are six of the top trends we expect to continue to see in 2021:

Digital Transformation

Recent innovations have exponentially expanded the ability for healthcare companies to virtualize customer interactions. On top of that, the pandemic has both increased the need for and sped up adoption of things like telemedicine, contact centers, mobile applications, websites, provider directories, CRMs, ERPs, and many more. With so many digital initiatives spinning up so quickly, many organizations are now facing the challenge of operationalizing their digital transformations to ensure long term success and stability. To do so, the right governance needs to be in place and communicated. Some companies are even creating or growing centralized, dedicated teams, solely focused on digital transformation efforts as a way to cut across siloes and ensure their organization is taking a holistic approach to digitization.

Technology Enablement

Companies that have healthy infrastructure systems and who dedicate resources to ensuring their IT systems are up to date are better positioned to capitalize on new technologies that enhance the customer experience. With strong infrastructure running in the background, healthcare companies can be more agile and faster to innovate, and without it, they will struggle to keep up.

Personalization

Digitization trends are driving personalization in healthcare. With so many virtual customer interactions, healthcare companies have the opportunity to capture data from those systems and craft a tailored experience for their customers. While healthcare and wellness is a service for everyone, healthcare companies are taking a deeper look into the unique needs of their customers and working to provide tailored support for their communities. To further support the emphasis on personalization, the healthcare industry has continued to see a growing interest in moving towards a value-based care model, where providing thorough care to each individual customer is the priority, in comparison to the fee-for-service model where the goal is to generate revenue by meeting with as many patients as possible. Personalization is a trend that is not unique to healthcare, so as other customer-facing industries make strides to personalize the customer experience, consumers now expect that same level of service and one-to-one experience from their healthcare providers.

Enterprise Governance

Organizations are prioritizing customer experience efforts and establishing enterprise governance solutions to ensure the organization is working toward the collective goal of enhancing the healthcare customer experience. With so many emerging technologies and healthcare trends to consider, organizations must be able to govern effectively across the organization, to ensure they are deploying their limited number of resources to the highest value initiatives.  Without this alignment, the organization will be spread too thin and the true impact and value of these efforts will not be captured.

Partnerships

The increased competition and constant change within the industry are also opening up opportunities for strategic partnerships and collaborations. From payer-provider partnerships, to technology product and services companies developing strategic collaborations, healthcare companies are leveraging partnerships as a way to expand their offerings, provide unique services to the market, share data, and better serve their customers. In addition to the likely partnerships within healthcare, there are also unlikely partnerships from companies outside the industry, such as the recent Epic and Lyft deal, as companies outside of healthcare are seeing the immense amount of opportunity in this industry and are looking for ways to get involved.

Safety

Due to the pandemic, public and personal safety is a major concern and, understandably, people are showing apprehension to go to a physical location for care. Healthcare providers will have to work hard to build trust with their customers to make them feel safe returning for non-emergency care visits in person. Making customers feel safe will require process changes, technology implementations, and strong communication that is thoughtfully crafted and effectively distributed.

Each of these trends has its own challenges, such as cost, the ability to measure impact and success, and the need to tailor their approaches to such a wide range of customers. That’s why it is critical that companies embarking on the customer experience journey ensure they have the right leadership support and strategy to enable success.


Customer expectations for their experience when navigating healthcare organizations for themselves or their family members are evolving, and with increasing competition and constant changes due to regulatory conditions and COVID-19, it’s critical that players in the healthcare industry innovate to provide positive, convenient and compassionate customer support.

Have you recently examined your customer experience strategy? Which of these trends are you planning to focus on in 2021?

It is critical that companies embarking on the customer experience journey ensure they have the right leadership support and strategy to enable success.

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