Reshaping Patient Experiences in the Era of Consumerized Healthcare

Today, patients are more involved in key decisions about their care than ever before. They choose providers, select coverage, collaborate on their own treatment plans and advocate for themselves and others, utilizing social media and networking channels. Enabled by increased access to information and more choices, patients are actively driving a shift in the healthcare industry. To stay ahead in this industry shift, healthcare service providers must also reinvent themselves, and providing outstanding customer experiences is one of the ways they can do so.

Here are the few strategies for healthcare providers to consider when looking to great better customer experiences that meet patients’ demand for a more collaborative healthcare journey.

Use clear language

To elevate customer experiences, insurance companies must focus on education first. Small shifts in approaches that empower consumers and help clarify expectations at the outset can have a big impact on the overall experience. For example: Selecting clear, customer-friendly language for website and enrollment materials, especially around terms like “copay” and “coinsurance,” can prevent costly and emotionally charged contact escalations down the line.

Learn from other industries

The “Age of the Customer” – a reality faced years earlier by retail and consumer product industries – has finally come to the healthcare industry. Technology, communications and other industries have made shifts in their customer service approach to better navigate this new landscape. Healthcare industry can create its own transformation now by looking at other industries and exploring how they adapted to consumer demands.

Create an ecosystem

As demonstrated by other industries, the most successful products of the modern age are more “experience ecosystems” than they are products, allowing customers to interact with the provider in new ways. To create these types of experience ecosystems, providers and payers are making investments in building patient portals and apps that provide easy access to patient information, claims processing, and options for providers and even virtual diagnosis.

Here’s an example: Kaiser Permanente, consistently one of the top-rated healthcare organizations in the United States, leveraged Oracle technology to provide “Web Self-Service and Nurse Chat” functionality to empower patients while controlling costs. In an online video discussing the “KP OnCall” portal, it is reported that 94 percent of users would use the Nurse Chat platform again rather than wait to speak to a nurse over the phone.

These types of investments can pay dividends as companies aspire to serve their customers in ways that resonate, but they can also be costly to implement and maintain. So, what is the right balance?

Consider the right balance of cost vs customer experience

A well-aligned customer experience carries tremendous benefits for the healthcare providers and insurers, from increased loyalty to positive brand perception. But the financial costs cannot be overlooked.

At the core of the most cost-effective and exceptional customer experience lies efficiency – the less time and effort wasted on the part of the customer service representatives, the more streamlined their operations, the more satisfied the customer, the lower the customer care costs. In short, the sooner the customer can get to the right answer or a solution to a problem, the happier the customer will be.

Get the Customer Insight

Understanding your customers, their needs, concerns and priorities can never be underestimated. One of the most proven and efficient ways to learn about the process’ inefficiencies, repeat contacts, delays and resubmitted claims is by tracking customers’ journey. Naturally, the longer the claims stay open, the more dissatisfied the customer will be and vice versa, but the study of the customer journey will allow to pinpoint where exactly the failure occurs. From there, companies can identify the top reasons for breakdown and begin designing the new and improved process.

Redesign the Customer Service Processes

With the customer journey study insight, healthcare providers and insurers can begin designing and implementing new procedures that can include automation of processes, education for providers and customers on common errors, increase of staffing agents to meet service demand and management of provider expectations. While the choice of improvement strategies will vary from one organization to the next, the outcome will likely remain constant – satisfied and loyal customers dedicated to their healthcare partners.

Greg Hopkins is Chief Client Officer for Alorica.

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