Bridging the Digital Divide: Improving Patient Experience Across Care Settings

Keeping patients with chronic conditions compliant with their care plans. Ensuring patients are following their discharge instructions to avoid readmissions.

Do these concerns sound familiar?

Never before has the need to influence patients outside their in-person healthcare encounters been more important. As value-based care takes hold at hospitals and health systems across the country, reimbursement and growth strategy depend on engaging patients well before and well after their hospital stay or clinic visit.

But trying to engage patients when they are not physically in front of their providers is extremely difficult.

A fractured journey

The patient journey between care settings remains fractured and siloed despite the rise in accountable care organizations and integrated delivery networks, as well as health system investments in access initiatives, call centers and care coordination resources.

Patients struggle to find in-network specialists and make appointments when they need them. When they get to the clinic, patients are bombarded with the same questions repeatedly and receive sometimes-confusing information about how to prepare for a procedure. Once they’re in the hospital, answers and information aren’t always readily available or understandable.

Going home can be equally confusing for patients. What are these new prescriptions? Can I take them with my current medications? Are these symptoms normal or should I call my doctor?

In fact, the primary driver of readmissions is patient confusion about what to do after discharge, especially as it relates to new medications. Data from an NCBI study showed that patients with low and intermediate adherence combined had readmission rates of 20% compared to a readmission rate of 9.3% for patients with high adherence.

This fractured patient journey not only increases readmissions risk. It also creates a slew of missed opportunities for providers—leakage to competing facilities, poor HCAHPS scores, inefficiency, and huge quality of care and safety risks for patients.

The power of digital technology

Healthcare is poised for a digital transformation. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 93% of patients expect that there should be digital tools that facilitate patient-provider interactions, and 78% say the health care digital customer experience needs improvement.

The good news is that we’ve seen digital technology have a transformational impact on previously disjointed customer journeys. Consider the massive influence of Lyft and Uber on mass transit. Or how Amazon has virtually eliminated the need to visit a brick and mortar department or grocery store.

The prevalence of digital engagement in our daily lives means that as patients and consumers of healthcare, we expect to be engaged differently. Companies that recognize and meet healthcare consumer demand are taking market share largely because they are using consumer-friendly technology to create access, convenience, and lower the cost of care.

Costs and missed opportunities

This shift in consumer expectations couldn’t come at a better time, as the costs and missed opportunities for health systems mount. According to The Advisory Board, 80% of Medicare patients seek 30% of their care outside their “home system.” Hospitals are also failing to optimize value-based reimbursements, with a whopping 82% of hospitals facing a readmissions penalty in 2019.

Research out of Tulane University found that 30% of procedures are cancelled because patients did not arrive at the correct time. These cancellations represent an average revenue loss per cancelled surgery of $1,325 – $5,962.

These financial misses are also patient experience misses. A readmitted patient didn’t understand her medication instructions. A canceled surgery means a patient missed work unnecessarily. And a patient who seeks care elsewhere didn’t think of his home system as a partner in health care.

A better way

Nearly all health system executives agree that the time is ripe for digital innovation to dramatically improve the patient experience. However, very few feel like they have a clear strategy on how to leverage technology to do this.

Eighteen years ago, as a result of his own healthcare experience, a patient had a vision for leveraging technology to transform the patient experience. His premise: a more active and involved patient is a healthier patient. That marked the beginning of GetWellNetwork.

Since then, we’ve improved patient experience care and how they interact with their care team in the hospital. Today, our capabilities span the entire continuum of care – at home, in the clinic, in the hospital, and in post-acute care settings.

For patients, this means a system that knows them and makes healthcare simple and easy. The digital platform automatically guides patients to the next step in their care, communicates with the care team, helps prepare the patient for surgery, makes them comfortable when they are in the hospital, and supports an optimal recovery after discharge.

For providers, a unified digital platform offers a consistent way to connect with patients regardless of setting, service line or condition. Data from the platform provides clinicians with a real-time pulse on patient engagement, experience, and compliance across multiple points in the care journey. This data helps providers better monitor patients remotely and intervene early before costs and complications escalate.

Through meaningful engagement across settings, health systems increase patient loyalty, improve compliance, enhance clinic productivity, and reduce readmissions and safety issues.

Technology aside, that meaningful engagement with patients and caregivers at every point along the care continuum enables what has always worked well in health care: the human connection.