By Jen Butler, Medisafe Chief Strategist
Can a digital patient experience create an impact on patient outcomes? While numerous studies have shown how a strong patient experience can play a role in the success of treatment, that now extends to digital technologies. According to a report from Forrester, more than a quarter of patients switched medical providers because of a poor digital health experience. In 2020, 28 percent of patients switched providers because of a poor digital health experience. Patients cited a lacking digital experience, with a desire for their healthcare experience to reflect that of Netflix, Amazon, and Uber.
As healthcare consumers gain more choice and power in managing their health, creating a positive patient experience is central to success for many aging healthcare systems. And with the rise of digital health apps, more patients are heading to their smartphones to make healthcare decisions. Creating a positive patient experience will largely depend upon a strong and engaging digital presence that is interactive, personal, and accessible.
Traditional patient experiences
The traditional patient experience in healthcare was often driven by providers and payers, forcing patients to interact with a structure designed to benefit the providers of care, not the recipient. It was limited to in-person care, at times and locations convenient to providers. The experience is often transactional, impersonal, and limited in scope and length. In many cases, patients are viewed as a collective experience where individuals of all types are forced into a singular, uniform experience, with variations only in treatment.
Treatment for an ailment, whether acute or chronic, is often viewed only at the time of diagnosis. Patients are only patients during the time care is being provided in the traditional healthcare setting, without much insight into how the treatment will impact the full scope of a patient’s complex life. This structure places the burden on the patient, forcing them to fully encapsulate their health and what treatment will mean at the time of determination. This stress leaves patients with questions, worry, fears, uncertainty about the diagnosis, treatment, symptoms, side-effects, prognosis, and long-term impact, all crammed into a 30-minute physician visit. But digital health tools are helping to turn the tables, providing a more consultative experience to patients on their terms.
The impact of the digital age
The increased use of digital technology has transformed the patient experience, creating a shift in the uniform nature of traditional healthcare experiences and upending the demand structure. Digital has created a reckoning in the healthcare industry that care must conform to patient needs instead of around. This is echoed in Forrester’s data that 53 percent of patients would switch medical providers if the experience included digital health tools.
Digital health has put the power back in patients’ hands, presenting opportunities for patients to access care resources and engage with their health and treatment in an on-going, on-demand nature. Healthcare is becoming more personal, more custom, more tailored to a specific treatment, and more powerful for patients. This shift creates a new challenge for healthcare systems and providers who face greater competition to retain patients. Through the advent of digital, healthcare must compete for an engaging experience akin to Netflix, Amazon, Uber – recognizing that choice belongs to patients and deliver a digital experience that must meet patient needs to remain successful, achieve outcomes, and earn revenue.
Transforming the patient experience
One area of digital health that is seeing a strong surge is the use of digital therapeutics. While digital health tools have seen an increase in use during the past decade, digital therapeutics is a growing subset that focuses on the emotional aspects of being a patient and helping patients navigate treatment journeys. Digital therapeutics take the patient experience to the next level, with support and guidance on physical, emotional, mental, financial, and other challenges that occur for patients.
Digital therapeutic tools deliver support for patients well beyond the physician’s office. Being a patient is a 24/7, complete and complex experience with numerous facets that impact life quality. Through digital therapeutics, the patient experience that traditionally happens in the physician’s office has now come online through a smartphone application. It brings all those questions and engagements about treatment, symptoms, payment, medication refills, and coping resources directly to patients, wherever they are in their individual journey. The traditional healthcare setting and clinician interaction can now occur in a patient’s living room, at the office, or from the car, making life as a patient less disruptive and more informed.
The use of digital health tools, including digital therapeutics, creates greater engagement for patients to connect with their health and treatment. The patient experience is no longer reduced to the 30-minute physician visit followed by a prescription and little to no guidance. By creating digital platforms that specifically talk to patients’ diagnosis or chronic condition, managing a health issue no longer feels daunting or insurmountable.
Digital health enables patient care to incorporate comprehensive guidance, information, and support throughout treatment. And with the addition of patient support resources, chat rooms with other users, and personalized guidance, the treatment journey no longer becomes a path that patients must walk alone. Moving the experience to capture all aspects of patient life fully helps users better understand their own health, receive step-by-step support for all treatment areas, and support engagement toward outcomes. It shifts patients from being treated to become invested (and own actionable steps) toward positive outcomes.
The future is digital.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more patients are turning to digital health tools to manage their health, with strong approval from users. Patient portal systems and digital health tools have seen a 200% increase in 2020. And 68% of patients want to see more customization in the future as part of their healthcare experience. More healthcare systems, providers, and pharma organizations are incorporating digital health tools to help meet this level of customization and on-demand preference that puts patients in control of their care.
Living at the intersection of patient experience and digital therapeutics means future technologies and platforms will enable patients to start their treatment journey and experience all the uncertainty of managing a health condition, with a constant companion to address issues as they arise. It also means that patients aren’t just people suffering the same condition. The use of digital therapeutics is tailored to unique conditions, situations, and therapeutic areas that support patients and unites them in their treatment to reduce feelings of isolation and despair. Healthcare of the future must grapple with this dramatic shift, engaging patients as people with complexities and complete lives intertwined with treatment. The patient experience is now online, digital, custom, and engaging users along every step.
About the Author
Jennifer Butler serves as Medisafe’s Chief Strategy Officer, bringing more than 20 years of consulting experience. Before joining Medisafe, Jen was vice president of marketing at New Century Health and Eliza, an HMS company engaging Medicare and Medicaid members in health programs. Jennifer’s experience also includes marketing strategy work at Deloitte Consulting in addition to mergers and acquisitions at BankBoston and Chase Securities.