How to Prioritize the Patient in a Digital-First Experience

Expectations for how people want to receive healthcare have been evolving for decades, and the implementation of value-based care models has changed the game for healthcare organizations of all kinds. With a heightened focus on the quality of care delivered and not just the amount of care provided, healthcare providers and health systems are well aware of the need to improve the patient experience.   

But many patients hold increasing expectations not only for the quality of care they receive, but also for how they receive that care. Improved consumer experiences across other industries are shifting what people expect from healthcare. From airlines that facilitate a digital check-in experience, to hotels that keep consumers informed about resources and deals relevant to their needs, to banks that offer the highest level of digital security and privacy, there’s no denying that consumers are increasingly expecting these industries to deliver services on the terms that work best for them. 

With the traditional healthcare experience laden with friction and frustration, consumers are increasingly less likely to accept the status quo. This impacts healthcare organizations and providers in a very real way: more than 50% of healthcare consumers surveyed said they would leave their provider for a superior digital experience. At the same time, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led to 20% to 40% increased digital adoption due to people staying in their homes and away from public gathering spots like hospitals and doctors’ offices, if they could help it.

Adventist Health’s digital-first philosophy

As consumers clamor for a digital experience, innovative health systems are rising to the challenge. Industry leader Adventist Health is addressing the shifting landscape head-on. The health system’s focus on a digital-first approach has enabled it to experience very real success in a short timeframe and, more importantly, in alignment with its 2030 vision. 

The ambitious 2030 vision aims to address the new and evolving healthcare needs of consumers and focuses on shifting to personalized, relationship-based, lifelong care and well-being with an emphasis on creating access through a digital-first philosophy. At a time when ubiquitous interactions with technology can feel automated and seemingly impersonal, a digital-first approach combined with a human element can make a significant difference, adding a personalized touch that doesn’t feel canned. And it’s this digital-first approach that has helped Adventist Health realize both improved patient outcomes and increased revenue. 

From texting and guidance beyond the four walls of the hospital to engagement with a patient on their personal devices in the inpatient setting, Adventist Health has an array of options including digital service recovery requests, in-room entertainment, and patient education, as well as personalized, automated digital outreach that’s based on a comprehensive 360-degree patient profile. 

Let’s dig a little deeper into a successful digital-first strategy.

Retain patients in network

Imagine a patient who has missed some annual wellness visits or someone who has overlooked a routine screening. Two approaches can help with reengagement: first, healthcare organizations must reach out to patients where they are, with the information they actually need. This means not waiting for the patient to proactively engage and request care; information and scheduling resources should be at their fingertips. 

Secondly, by having the support of a human element (via Get Well Navigators) who can intervene, scale care, and escalate to care teams if needed, the patient is put back on track with their care, and the healthcare organization can scale outreach and non-clinical tasks without additional internal resources.

Adventist Health measurably improved both patient engagement and revenue in just a few months with a digital-first patient outreach program. The program, which will ultimately incorporate the full care continuum, began with an effort that targeted adults who had not had a routine wellness appointment in the past 18-24 months. To re-engage these inactive patients, Adventist Health and Get Well partnered to develop personalized digital outreach based on a comprehensive 360-degree patient profile, ensuring that patient needs and offered resources could be tailored to their particular health journey.

Where necessary, the initial digital outreach was followed up with further communication from Get Well Navigators. A targeted digital strategy paired with human follow-up combines the best of both worlds: innovative AI-driven technology and a caring touch that leads to engaged patients and improved outcomes. As an organizational retention strategy, this kind of holistic virtual care navigation can be a win for both health systems and the patients they serve.

Improve the patient experience and outcomes

By crafting a premium digital-first experience for their patients, organizations like Adventist Health address this fragmentation head on by streamlining the healthcare experience in a way that meets customer expectations. 

Patients are guided to appropriate resources or information before or after an appointment, helping to provide a complete picture of the care they are receiving. In addition to guiding patients through their care journey, Get Well Navigators are trained to screen them for social and behavioral determinants of health concerns and mental health considerations, acting as advocates for a patient’s non-clinical needs and providing helpful resources, such as where they can find safe housing or food. As such, Navigators act as a single point of contact in an otherwise fragmented system. 

These personalized digital touchpoints don’t have to stop once a patient has made an appointment. Digital care management also engages patients before and after an episode of care through regular, automated check-ins. These automated daily check-ins help provide a real-time window into the patient’s care and health status, enabling care teams to focus on the right patients at the right time. 

One of the most versatile aspects of the digital-first approach is the ability to implement it across the entire care continuum. Bringing in a digital navigation aspect to post-discharge care helps patients manage their transition home from the hospital, increasing patient comprehension and compliance, which in turn helps reduce readmissions and complications. 

The bottom line

With changing consumer demands and expectations come necessary innovative solutions. A digital-first consumer experience enables organizations to retain patients in network, provide an enhanced experience, and improve patient health — and those are invaluable benefits, for both patients and providers.

If you’d like to learn more about how Adventist Health’s reimagining patient engagement with a digital-first philosophy, please join us on June 29 for a Becker’s Hospital Review-hosted webinar featuring Adventist Health’s Chief Strategy Officer Jason Wells in conversation with Get Well CEO Michael O’Neil.