Healthcare Consumerization: Taking a Page from Retail to Improve the Patient Experience

by Molly True
December 05, 2018

Have you ever been frustrated by your experience as a patient? I found myself recently needing to take my husband to an urgent care on a Sunday due to an unfortunate incident. Everything about the experience from start to finish was less than ideal. The check-in involved a clip board and pen asking questions that we already answered 100 times before. The poor nurse at the front desk then had to manually enter our information into the computer. This archaic process caused delays for every patient waiting, and the room only continued to fill up.

What’s even more frustrating, is that it would not take a big investment to improve my experience. A tablet that syncs to the EHR versus a busy nurse trying to interpret my frantic scribbles, would be far more efficient.

It can only take one bad experience to deter you from returning and healthcare providers are no exception. After our experience, we would never return to that urgent care.

Healthcare waiting room using modern technology like the retail industry

Improving the patient experience

Healthcare is taking the lead from other consumer-oriented industries like retail. Healthcare providers are seeking ways of removing friction from every area of the patient experience, from scheduling to check-in/check-out, pricing, payments, to follow-up care. Even the president of HIMSS points out that every patient wears three hats: citizen, patient and consumer.

Retail strategies healthcare can learn from

It is the experience of the patient as a consumer that we can apply the learnings from the retail industry to evolve the overall experience for patients. Especially when looking at ambulatory facilities, whether a physician clinic, an urgent care, or a surgical center, there is an aspect of the guest experience when you are in the waiting room that transitions to the patient experience once you enter the exam room.

  1. There is little room for error, patients have choices. Retaining a patient is just as important as acquiring one in the first place. As we know, acquiring a new one is even costlier.

    Research in the retail industry shows most consumers will choose a competitor after 1-2 poor experiences. Patients today have many options including retail pharmacies offering primary care such as CVS and Walgreens, telehealth providers such as Teledoc and MDLive, and other independent urgent care providers. Are healthcare organizations keeping in mind how little room there is for error with patients?

  2. Guest experiences that are convenient to the consumer. Are the locations convenient to where consumers are located? Are charging stations, water and comfortable seating available? Nearly 60% of new and recent healthcare facility construction is in the outpatient space—where there is an emphasis and rush to create smaller, more accessible facilities in locations closer to the consumer.
  3. High-performance guest Wi-Fi. Is a secure Wi-Fi service in place? Does it extend into the parking lot? Healthcare providers need to provide high‑performance guest Wi-Fi access for patients waiting in order to keep up with consumer expectations.
  4. Pricing transparency. Providing the ability to know a price range for procedures in advance ensures patients are prepared to take on the financial commitments and creates a much-appreciated transparency. Retailers have been doing this for years—price matching with their competitors to keep consumers. Amazon took it to another level where you can even scan the bar code and get your price right in their mobile application. Can patients compare prices easily? Windstream Enterprise learned at the Beckers HIT + Revenue Cycle panel in September that Loyola Health rolled out pricing transparency in their portal and via their mobile application to improve the patient experience.
  5. Customized concierge services. Depending on the complexity of care, patients may need concierge and referral services to navigate different healthcare providers in order to get the care they need. Contact Center as a Service can help facilitate the concierge experience.

This topic of retail healthcare is one we will be examining much further. Windstream Enterprise will be an exhibitor at HIMSS 2019. Be sure to visit us at booth #735 and attend our speaking session: Retail Healthcare Delivery Evolution on February 14th from 10 -11 AM. Dev Ashish, CIO of GoHealth Urgent Care and Rehan Shah, Regional President of Windstream Enterprise will be speaking much more on this very topic.