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2017 Themes in Consumer-Focused Healthcare
Six factors healthcare executives should consider when redesigning the patient experience to make it more convenient and effective.
May 18, 2017

To be successful, many of today’s health systems are operating from the perspective of the patient and working to make the patient experience better, quicker and easier. To attract new patients and retain them as loyal consumers, healthcare providers need to maximize the value equation, providing better care for less.

In addition to providing high-quality outcomes, there are other aspects to consider. Last fall, we gathered 25 CFOs from major health systems to get their perspectives on best practices to improve the patient experience—based on that conversation, here are six factors healthcare executives should take into consideration.

1. Cultivating Loyal Healthcare Consumers

Today’s healthcare consumers expect the same frictionless consumer experience they enjoy across the online retail realm. Patients want to be able to use mobile and digital devices to communicate with their physicians, schedule appointments, compare hospital costs and evaluate clinical performance. Health systems need to deliver a simpler, consumer-focused user experience, and executives should weigh service changes and decisions from the perspective of the patient. That approach can help offer a more satisfying experience and cultivate greater loyalty.

2. Competing or Collaborating with Telehealth

The telehealth industry continues to grow, leveraging business models that capitalize on patients’ desire for convenience. For example, Teladoc allows patients with nonemergency complaints (like the flu or joint pain) to speak with a board-certified physician through an online video, phone or mobile app and then receive a prescription, all for about $45 per appointment. Zocdoc links patients who need face-to-face physician visits to doctors with available appointment slots.

In the telehealth industry, patient adoption is the biggest challenge. Growth depends on significant investment in digital and traditional marketing. In this new environment, healthcare CFOs can forge a strategic relationship with an outside telehealth company or choose to compete on their own. Telemedicine may replace office visits for simple cases, but online services will often require an in-person visit for diagnostic tests or lab work.

Conversely, healthcare systems can elect to build telehealth services within their organizations, using telehealth to deliver more cost-effective care and increase physician office capacity while attracting and retaining new patients. In creating these services, executives should focus on satisfying consumer value drivers and engaging patients on their own terms while also aligning the program with the core business strategy. Importantly, executives should also understand risk tolerance and recognize that success often requires a multiyear investment. And even as consumers may appreciate the patient-oriented program, organizations should still be realistic about implementation readiness. Physicians can be resistant to process changes.

3. Cybersecurity Risks in Healthcare

As with every industry, healthcare’s growing reliance on electronic communication and dependency on third-party vendors increases the potential for cyberattacks. Phishing, malware and ransomware attacks are on the rise. According to the Ponemon 2016 Annual Benchmark Study on Privacy & Security of Healthcare Data, the top five ways healthcare organizations are targeted for security breaches are:

  • Criminal attacks
  • Third-party incidents
  • Stolen computing devices
  • Unintentional employee actions
  • Technical glitches

While there are a variety of tools and approaches for ensuring effective cybersecurity, health system executives should focus first on internal controls. Critical factors include the training, compliance and full support of all employees, starting with the senior management team. Employees need training to identify, avoid and report phishing emails and to know how to respond if a cyberattack occurs. Since open social media accounts are a common entry point for attackers, employees should be prohibited from using their social accounts on the organizational IT system. Organizations should also control IT system access for third-party vendors.

4. Strategies for Growth

Different markets and businesses call for different philosophies on growth strategies in a rapidly changing worldwide marketplace. With organic growth, organizations can form strategic partnerships to create a robust model for population health. Another approach is to focus on collaborative affiliations, such as working with outpatient surgical centers and partnering with in-store retail clinics. The emergence of retail clinics as treatment facilities is a clear trend in healthcare consumerization. These limited-service, quick-care clinics are often attached to chain pharmacies. By capitalizing on the location, advertising and brand recognition of their parent organizations, they can offer a more convenient alternative to traditional clinics. Working with these partners, healthcare organizations can focus on winning business at the point of care, shifting from wholesale to retail.

As we have seen in the recent wave of consolidation, healthcare organizations can also look to mergers and acquisitions. Successful health system mergers hinge on business logic, cultural fit, financial advantages and a clear path to success. The strategy of any merger should focus on what’s right for the organization and the community it serves.

5. Opportunities in Big Data

The advent of so-called big data is leading to breakthroughs in health treatments, but it is also proving essential for providing consumer-focused services. With a big data strategy, healthcare organizations have the opportunity to bend the cost curve. Organizations can enhance service and competitiveness by launching a big data department, hiring the best talent with focused assignments to find new insights and opportunities in the most pressing areas, like enabling predictive modeling to help providers quickly and effectively treat large populations.

At the same time, a key element of healthcare consumerism is access to comparative healthcare data. It allows consumers to make informed choices about how and where they spend their healthcare dollars. A data-driven patient experience can deliver the transparency consumers seek while improving care and generating increased business and patient loyalty.

6. Strategic and Operational Challenges of Bundled Care

Hospitals that are mandated to employ bundled payments currently bear the total financial risk. They are finding that their greatest financial vulnerability is in post-acute care (PAC), which accounts for 70 percent of total Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement bundled costs.

Too often, data and records are not shared between hospitals and PAC providers. Hospitals and treating physicians have little information on or control over spending, and they lack real-time knowledge of when patient readmissions happen. There are several ways for CFOs to prepare their organizations for a possible future of acute and chronic care bundled payments.

Critical to success with bundles is acquiring and analyzing data. It provides the insight to determine with physicians what kinds of care can be shifted from inpatient to outpatient. This allows CFOs to calculate the bottom-line impact and financial consequences if CMS stops paying for the “rework” for surgery patients. PAC needs to be an extension of the hospital. Healthcare organizations might alternatively find PAC partners for both quality care and record sharing.

New technologies and evolving consumer expectations require healthcare organizations to take a fresh look at their services and adapt to better cater to patient needs and preferences. But with the help of data, partnerships, innovation and careful strategy, organizations can make the patient experience as good as it can be, yielding the competitiveness and patient loyalty they need to succeed.

 

 

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