We’re moving from a period of dramatic change in the healthcare industry under the Affordable Care Act to one that is almost certain to bring, whether U.S. presidential campaign rhetoric comes to fruition or not, years of even greater uncertainty and a rapidly evolving regulatory environment. At the same time, consumers are growing warier of the increasingly complex state of healthcare and health insurance.
Regardless of how the details play out, the trends toward increased competition and lower prices, along with greater price transparency, will likely expand and accelerate in the months and years ahead.
In this climate, healthcare systems have an opportunity to prioritize and focus on something they can control and that will serve them well no matter how the landscape shifts: the relationship they have with their patients and customers.
Beyond patient experience in the age of the ‘empowered patient’
Since at least 2000, we’ve been talking about the patient experience and what exactly we mean by that. More recently, there is broad consensus that we are now operating in the era of the empowered patient, a term introduced by Forrester senior analyst Kate McCarthy.
In her report, Predictions 2017: Engaging The Empowered Patient¹, McCarthy writes that digital experience investments will expand to achieve more engagement and satisfaction: “Healthcare’s customers—be they patients, families, purchasers of insurance, or even employees—expect to be able to connect with their healthcare organizations through digital.”
Noting that this digital experience often starts with websites and provider search, the report quotes Connective DX Digital Strategy Director Dave Wieneke, who says, “The website still plays a vital role in supporting a broader patient experience before, during and after they walk through the front door of the hospital. If a patient can’t step through a clear, frictionless and well-thought-out digital experience, what does that say about the hospital’s commitment to patient care when they show up for a procedure?”
Consumers are using hospital websites more than ever before, with more than 80% of patients doing so to select and plan for care.²
Just for hospitals: a prescription for digital experience excellence
Despite the increasing importance of websites for hospitals, there have been few recognized best practices to guide teams in assessing the state of their current sites to prioritize areas for improvement.
Looking to provide proven methods and examples rather than theory alone, Dave and his team decided to benchmark digital excellence from the top 15 hospital system websites in the U.S. The first annual Hospital Digital Experience Index, which Connective DX offers at no charge, provides healthcare marketing and technology leaders with an objective and informed view for improving the digital engagement of their most important audiences.
In a recent webinar with Dave for the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD), Jared Johnson, Marketing Technology Manager at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, had this to say about the report:
“Having this benchmarking data is helpful not just at the time we received the results, but for the things it’s causing us to think about and for helping us identify where to focus as we evolve the site. These things are coming up in meetings on a daily basis lately where we’ve discussed geographic complexity, multilingualism, reading level, etc. It’s very relevant to have this type of data on hand as an objective evaluation of where we are.”
The experience design team that conducted the research and analysis for the report used their own direct observations, along with external data, to gauge the effectiveness and impact of digital experiences across four capabilities: clarity, functionality, impact and use cases. The results highlight industry trends and illustrate actionable best practices, with contextual insights to help hospitals plan and prioritize based on their own unique needs. Jared says this exercise has been beneficial as Phoenix Children’s works through the next evolution of their site:
“We now have some clear measures, so we can identify areas where we’re doing well and keep those strengths. Just as importantly, we can identify areas where we have some work to do. Because of this benchmarking, we can zero in on the improvement areas with a laser focus and really nail them. That is important for us so we don’t just react to every hallway conversation with somebody who wants something a little different. That’s what this is providing us with—clarity.”
Jared and his team have found that the report is allowing them to do more than just identify and plan for how to close gaps in their digital experience relative to peers and competitors.
“One of the other outcomes of using this benchmarking data is that we’ve learned to focus on the areas where we can innovate. To not just do competitive research to see areas where we can be like everyone else and catch up, but to identify things no one else is doing and say, ‘Hey, we think we can be a first in that area.’ That is just as important and just as valuable to the enterprise.”
How does your digital experience measure up?
Whether you’re exploring new digital initiatives to support empowered patients or just want to see how top hospitals are meeting the challenge, download your copy of the Hospital Digital Experience Index.
2 Reid, P., and E.M. Borycki. 2011. “Emergence of a New Consumer Health Informatics Framework: Introducing the Healthcare Organization.” Studies in Health Technology and Informatics 164: 353-57