Bring Your Own Device: The Evolution of Patient Engagement

Today’s healthcare consumers sure look a lot different than they used to. Traditionally, engaging with the healthcare system has taken on more of a paternalistic feel, with doctors handing out diagnoses and care instructions and patients just kind of going along for the ride.

Many industries decades ago realized the importance of focusing on the consumer and creating experiences that anticipate customer needs and reliably deliver high-quality service. Today, we bank, plan and book travel, order groceries and food for takeout or delivery, and communicate seamlessly around the world. We can customize this experience — how we want our food prepared and where we want our items delivered — and we do this with the tap of our finger without ever leaving home.

First, the internet made these services much more convenient for consumers. Then, the introduction of smartphones further improved the consumer experience, making interactions seamless and allowing people to access what they need quickly. Today, nearly all consumers — 97% — own a cellphone; 85% of those phones are smartphones.

When it comes to receiving healthcare, however, the experience for most people is far from convenient and seamless.

But increasingly — little by little — that has been changing. 

Getting patients is only half the battle. How do you keep them? 

Many patients are increasingly apprehensive and distrustful of some of its most crucial aspects, with 81% of consumers unsatisfied with their healthcare experience, according to a GE Healthcare Camden Group survey.

While not necessarily a new problem, as patients become increasingly more educated about their healthcare choices, this broader dissatisfaction can lead to patients seeking care outside of a particular health system in an effort to find care that better aligns with their preferences and needs. Such patient leakage is a significant concern for today’s healthcare organizations.

Central Logic’s Patient Leakage and Keepage report found that 96% of healthcare executives thought patient leakage was a priority last year. However, 38% of respondents didn’t know if their organization had visibility into patient leakage. With a burgeoning problem but murky insights, healthcare organizations are challenged to develop effective strategies for retaining patients.

Can those patients who are leaving be convinced to stay? How might organizations not only increase patient satisfaction, but also nurture patient relationships so that patients will return to their system when future needs arise?

The answer starts with patient engagement — ensuring the patient is a partner rather than pawn in their care — and drills down to a seamless, accessible healthcare experience. What about a strategy that enables patients and families to bring their own devices to connect to the patient experience? When enacted throughout all of a health system’s facilities, such a strategy could be a good first step. Why is that, and what might this look like? Let’s take a deeper dive.

The patient experience as a healthcare differentiator

The American Hospital Association (AHA) lists more than 6,000 hospitals active in the United States. With so much competition, many health systems are doing great work to stand out from the crowd. However, fewer work to keep the healthcare experience consistent from facility to facility, ensuring they stand out from the competition on the strength of the patient experience itself.

But these efforts are worth it — one survey from Kyruus found that a health system’s reputation is highly valued, with 68% of healthcare consumers surveyed rating it “extremely or very important in provider selection.” In covering this finding, HealthcareFinance concluded that “brand may serve as a differentiator for health systems as they expand sites of care.”

Just as it does outside of healthcare, a consistent, reliable experience acts as a crucial communication point between patients and the larger healthcare organizations with which they interact. From conveying mission and values to ensuring consistency across consumer experiences, healthcare organizations can make a powerful investment in their larger goals by focusing on patient experience.

There’s an interplay between a healthcare experience, patient expectations, and patient leakage that many systems aren’t considering — and it starts with consistency.

The benefits of healthcare consistency

Take patient engagement tools as an example. The benefits of having a strategy for patient engagement that permeates the entire health system — staying consistent from facility to facility — are wide-reaching. Organizations must aim to create a cohesive experience for those they serve. By ensuring a consistent experience across all facilities, across the entire health system, organizations are ensuring a patient coming to their chosen system can feel like they’re truly a part of that health system, no matter the location.

This is doubly important to reduce patient leakage. A satisfied patient is one that seeks out care from the same team, facility, or health system in future. A satisfied patient recognizes which health system they’re a part of and puts in effort to remain there. Without consistent care, tools, and solutions offered for the patient’s benefit, how and why would they ever think to return?

Example: patient engagement tools

Let’s paint a picture. Using the patient engagement tools from above, imagine how they might be spread out from hospital to hospital, facility to facility, ensuring a consistent experience for every patient in a health system network, in a way that makes that network recognizable and a sought-after experience.

Many patient engagement or patient education tools display on in-room, mounted smart TVs. This can be highly effective, but may be difficult to enact across all facilities due to budgetary constraints and hardware restrictions. Flip the script, and consider patient engagement tools that bring the engagement right to a patient’s own device.

A bring-your-own-device strategy for patients and families is an excellent start to creating system-wide cohesion and a recognizable experience.

Benefits of a consistent, bring-your-own-device strategy

In today’s hyper-connected world, mobile technology has become ubiquitous. With a handheld device at the ready for most people, healthcare organizations must thoughtfully consider their digital strategy, and that must consist of a mobile-first strategy to reach the broadest patient community. When patients are able to access educational and therapeutic offerings in multiple ways, including via their own devices, this accessibility not only empowers patients to be in charge of their own care, but also lifts the burden on staff to provide that same information in many different forms.

The benefits of a bring-your-own-device strategy for patient engagement that permeates the entire health system are threefold:

  1. Access: Provide access to patient engagement technology for systems that wouldn’t otherwise have it
  2. Continuity: Provide access to patient engagement technology in situations where there are no health system resources to replace older, in-room technology
  3. System consistency: Provide ubiquitous access to patient engagement technology for systems that have in-room technology in some facilities, but not in others

By increasing access to patient engagement technologies, a bring-your-own-device strategy ensures a consistent experience at every facility in a network, creating a cohesive brand at the system level. There are surprising benefits for patients, as well.

Increasing ease of patient access

Beyond the benefits to the healthcare organization, patients stand to gain a great deal from the shift of patient engagement off of TVs and onto their own devices. In an industry grappling with questions of health equity, reducing barriers to patient access for patient engagement — like the need for smart TVs and recurring hardware end-of-life concerns — can only be a plus.

With the advent of patient-centric bring-your-own-device strategies, the patient engagement experience becomes available for health systems who might not otherwise have the resources to invest in smart TVs and their ilk.

In addition to making a difference at a health system level, this expanded availability democratizes access to patient engagement care for underserved populations, leveling the playing field and ensuring all patients can receive the same care solutions as any other patient in their situation — all it takes is a smart device in their pocket or a tablet in their hand.

From engagement to economics

Patient leakage isn’t just an obstacle for patient care and provider satisfaction. In fact, 75% of respondents to the Central Logic survey said that patient leakage was a significant obstacle to their organization’s financial goals, as well.

A cohesive, system-wide patient experience solution presents even more opportunities than obstacles, however. One key insight from PWC’s Top Health Industry Issues 2021 report is that “applying the right digital tools for clinicians can be an opportunity for growth.”

By making a conscious effort to prioritize a seamless, system-wide strategy, organizations can not only attract and retain patients, but also ensure that health equity and level access remain top priorities. What’s good for patients is good for business.

The bottom line

Patients are clamoring for a seamless experience, like the one they’ve found as consumers of other industries. A cohesive, system-wide approach to patient engagement — one that relies on patients’ own devices rather than an investment in on-the-wall technology — shows a thorough commitment to the patient experience. And that commitment is a genuine asset for any healthcare organization today.