What If the Patient Experience Started Way Before Your Doctor's Visit? An interview with Tara Becker.
In this episode, Jim and Kim talk with Tara Becker, principal of digital health strategy at Perficient, about how to meet both consumer and employee needs in the healthcare industry. It’s no secret that clinicians burned out post-pandemic. Are there ways that we can champion the industry toward a new digital future? Listen to this week’s episode to learn how to mix people, processes, and technology to support healthcare employees and consumers.
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Episode 39: What If the Patient Experience Started Way Before Your Doctor's Visit? - Transcript
There are a lot of leaders in healthcare who are thinking through this. There are a lot of organizations who are starting on this journey, but it really is thinking about the consumer strategy in healthcare, thinking about all of the touchpoints, thinking about the omnichannel experience of not only the patients, but of the referring physicians, of the physicians providing the care of, like you said, those call center. And I think one thing you can do is talk to the people in your organization who are on the front lines of care, and they're experiencing every day with their patients, with their referring physicians, and understand what are some of the things that would make their jobs easier, would make their lives easier in providing the best care.
Welcome to What If? So What?, the podcast where we ask what's possible with digital and figure out how to make it real in your business. I'm Jim Hertzfeld.
And I'm Kim Czopek.
And today we'll ask What If?, So What? And most importantly, Now What? The Journal of the American Medical Association recently stated that telehealth visits increased from 840,000 in 2019 to almost 53 million in 2020 during the pandemic. In 2021 alone, 37% of adults use telehealth according to the US Center for Disease Control. The CDC, like many things, the pandemic shifted everyday activities to digital. But as the COVID public emergency expires this month, what else has changed in medicine? Turns out there's much more to the story than a Zoom call with our doctor. What if while you are driving to your appointment, an app tells you where to park, that they know you're there, and that your doctor is running 15 minutes late. Let's say you get your test results in the same app, but what if you could get the same digital white glove experience you get when ordering a pizza, just paying your electric bill? Kim, what if you never had to see your doctor again?
Wow. I mean, that sounds amazing. I mean, on the one hand, it sounds great, especially for the low-risk, routine care and simple issues. I'm not a big, like, proactive let me make a doctor's appointment. I usually wait till I'm not-
I feel fine.
Death’s doorstep and go to the emergency room. It's terrible because it's such a hassle to have to make the appointment and go in and wait, and then it turns out you have a cold. That's not a great experience. So it sounds exciting, but then I get concerned, as we've seen, you know, even in our day-to-day profession, there's something to be said about being in person. So I might say that I feel fine, but if I'm sitting in front of my doctor looking her in the eye, is she going to see something about my body language or something in my eye color to say, you don't look fine. Like, are you going to really be able to get that through a phone call or a zoom call? I don't know. What would that mean? To make sense of this, we're talking today with Tara Becker, Principal for Healthcare Strategy at Perficient. Tara, talk to us a little bit about how telehealth or virtual health is evolving and what it means for the consumers and how are consumers driving how healthcare organizations evolve?
Thanks so much for having me today. A lot of the things that you, Kim, and Jim are talking about revolve around this concept in healthcare of the digital front door. And this is a topic that has become really mainstream as we're kind of coming out of the pandemic was really something we were talking about before the pandemic, but really got elevated. You know, Jim, as you mentioned, virtual visits increased dramatically during the pandemic, and that expectation isn't changing among consumers. Consumerism is a topic that we've been talking about a lot in healthcare. Many people know if you've been a consumer of healthcare, how behind the healthcare system is as an industry in terms of digital experience, but consumers expectations particularly driven by the covid pandemic are demanding things that you get in other aspects of digital interaction. This is a topic that I love talking about and something that's so timely.
So Tara, we talk about the last best experience where the last best experience a consumer had anywhere is the minimum expectation they have everywhere. Does that apply here?
Oh my God, so much. I actually love that statement because, you know, we talk about patients with the labeled patients, but the reality is they're healthcare consumers. They're consuming products, and services in all of the rest of their daily lives. They have liquid expectations. So it means just what you said, Jim, that their last best experience sets the bar for their future experiences. So there's no longer kind of a pass that healthcare organizations get for outdated experiences. And now when you know you're expecting the best lifesaving treatments and you get this really crappy experience, you know, in either trying to, you can't book an appointment online, or you can't connect into talk to your doctor or your call-center, it really starts eroding things like trust. These organizations talk about the highest caliber of care, and the most advanced technology, but you can't even book an appointment online. Like you can't book a reservation online through OpenTable.
Calls everything into question, right?
Fair or not. So that's, that's incredibly convenient for patients and caregivers and consumers. But what's in it for the provider? What's in it for the business?
Oh, I'm so glad you asked that. You know, there's this concept that a Harvard Medical School physician Warner Slack termed many years ago in the nineties, he was a pioneer of the electronic medical record and a pioneer of patient power. And his concept was that patients are the most underutilized resource in healthcare. And what he means by that is when patients are engaged in their healthcare and all these concepts of digital front door and the tools that enable digital front door enable that engagement. But when patients or healthcare consumers are more engaged in their healthcare, there's a lot of benefits from it. Better health outcomes. When we understand what we're going through and we understand what the next steps are, and we understand how to engage and how to be proactive, you have much, much better health outcomes. There's a lot of research to show that there's also a lot that can be done to help the healthcare system. We know the healthcare systems are overwhelmed by staffing shortages right now. While imagine, you know, just enabling patients to book appointments online, that really takes a burden off your call centers. It enables access to care to happen more quickly and more smoothly. So if you think about things like digital scheduling, being able to find a provider profile, and match your own expectations to the providers that you want to see, that virtual care that saves a lot of time for the patients and for the provider. All of those things are really helping to drive that concept at the digital front door, helping to drive operational efficiencies. Then on the back end of that, all of these things, because they're powered by technology drive insights, they drive data, they're collecting data all along the way that can provide organizational insights so that organizations can take that data, can understand what's working, how they can streamline their operations in the future, can figure out what are some of the things we need to do better, where are the things that we can automate, those kinds of things. So there's a lot of benefits to be had.
So that's interesting, Tara, because a lot of what you're describing follows a very traditional digital transformation flow, as consumers we're experiencing a lot of the technology, the telehealth and zoom visits and whatnot, but it can't all be technology, to your point. It has to be an examination of people, process and technology to get those health outcomes and to enable continuous improvements. I just wonder how would an organization, a healthcare organization really get started knowing that our recommendation would be don't throw a bunch of technology at it, <laugh>, how would you recommend them getting started?
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, technology is tremendous. It is a tremendous enabler, but it is just that. If you implement a bunch of technology without a strategy behind it, you've got a bunch of technology that either works in an out of the box fashion, which is often not how organizations are organized. So, the way we like to think about digital transformation in healthcare, this concept of the digital front door is really understanding the healthcare consumer, the patient, and their expectations and needs along their healthcare journey. So we take some common scenarios and we map out those journeys. So that's really taking the consumer aspect of it, but you need to marry that up with what the organizational needs are, either from a business standpoint, from a growth standpoint, and you need to marry those two things together. So what is the ideal experience that you can create for your consumers while driving the kinds of things you need to drive for your business? And then from there you can start designing the optimal experience, but before anything gets implemented, you really need to think realistically about the operations that are powering all of this. So the technology is one piece, understanding what the needs are of the consumer and the organization are another, but then putting the operations into place that is really, you know, you talked about people, process, technology that really is a key aspect of it and often one of the pitfalls that we see that gets overlooked, it's like, yeah, yeah, we'll do the change management later. But this is really the catalyst for making sure that these optimal experiences can be driven. So Kim, you talked about at the beginning, oh, I love the idea of virtual health, but what if through the camera, my doctor can't see that, you know, I've got this skin rash, or these other kinds of things. So the digital part of it is tremendously important, but it needs to be a holistic focus on the whole experience, both the human and the digital touchpoints to provide patients with that kind of ultimate choice, ultimate outcomes, and pulling all those pieces together. So really looking at how people process, technology all come together in that this is not the kind of thing that you can just flip a switch in. It turns on overnight <laugh>.
Right, right. Well, it strikes me, we work with a lot of organizations and people will have heard the stories about mostly consumer brands saying, no, we're, we're not this brand. We're not a fast, casual restaurant. We're a technology company. And I'm sitting here listening to you thinking like, this is great, but I don't want my doctor to be like, no, I'm not a doctor, I'm a technology and a mayor. Yeah, no, I want you to be the doctor. So <laugh>,
How do we balance, or how do those organizations balance, how have you seen it? Do they bring on, are they investing in it and they're working with the healthcare provider side, or how have you seen this come together so that it is actually listening in this case to the business and vice versa?
Yeah, it's interesting you bring that up, Kim, because healthcare organizations are always looking to pivot, looking to innovate, looking to find new ways to, in some cases elevate their brand in the marketplace. It's funny, some healthcare organizations are now calling themselves technology platforms, and I don't know how that's going to play long term in the market. I don't think that really is a lot of what patients are looking for, but we'll see. <Laugh>
Might be what the investors are looking for, but I think not necessarily patients, right?
Yeah, but getting back to your question, Kim, how do we enable this? I think that really having that alignment between kind of the business strategy with thinking through all of the aspects of how technology, how digital, how engaging patients in their care really provides better outcomes to the organization, better financial results, better clinician experience. We know that clinician burnout is tremendous in healthcare, not only on the nursing side, which we know there's tremendous nursing staff just throughout the country, but on the physician side too, you know, there's been a number of studies that physicians would not recommend the profession to their younger counterparts. That's pretty troubling. Yes.
Yeah. So how can we enable, how can we use digital to make the experience better overall for all of the players? And I think we do a lot of customer research, and when we say customer oftentimes we think about patients, but it's not just about patients. We interview CIOs of healthcare organizations, CFOs, COOs, and it's really interesting. I think a lot of people go into working for a hospital organization or an integrated delivery network because they are mission driven. So a lot of what we're seeing is that CIOs, CTOs really want to partner with the business to be driving the business in the way that needs that efficiency. They want to be partners to make things better for the organization. So I think unlike some other industries that is that will always be, you know, some kind of negotiation that needs to happen, but I don't think it is as much of a hurdle in hospital organizations as it is in some other organizations.
I have so many hundreds of other questions. I'm just factoring in how the payer might fit into this and how med device companies and pharmaceutical companies fit into this very complex system. When you factor in that you have to balance this all out, but for the listener that's out there, maybe they're in the unit, or maybe they're in a call center, or maybe they're in medical school, the individuals in this space, what's something you could give them to do at, at the end of this episode?
That's a great question. What could we give them to do? I think one thing is to think about, those great experiences that you have in life, whether it's booking travel on Airbnb or ordering a pizza at Dominoes. And there are a lot of things, I think about the pizza tracker. You think about, how you can select different kind of attributes to your lodging that you're looking for on Airbnb. There are a lot of complicating factors in healthcare. You think about privacy, data security, all of that stuff. HIPAA, all of those things are very real things that need to be dealt with from a healthcare perspective. There are inspirations you can take from those ideas and figure out how we can start from a step-by-step process making things a little bit better in the healthcare space. There are a lot of leaders in healthcare who are thinking through this. There are a lot of organizations who are starting on this journey, but it really is thinking about the consumer strategy in healthcare, thinking about all of the touchpoints, thinking about the omnichannel experience of not only the patients, but of the referring physicians, of the physicians providing the care of, like you said, those call centers. I think one thing you can do is talk to the people in your organization who are on the front lines of care and they're experiencing every day with their patients, with their referring physicians, and understand what some of the things are that would make their jobs easier, would make their lives easier in providing the best care. I think that that's a really great place to start. And then also talking to consumers. You find out so many rich details in consumers when you do consumer research, they have tons of ideas, because they've all experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of healthcare.
That's good advice and great advice for a lot of people, I think, in a lot of sectors. Thanks, Tara. And yeah, I just want to point out that as we record this, it's virtual, it's sort of like a virtual visit and on its own.
So, we're kind of experiencing right now and I'm just happy that we're all healthy and feeling great. Thanks Tara. Thanks, Kim. Looking forward to seeing you in person. By the way, both of you <laugh>, hopefully soon.
Yeah, same here.
Hopefully soon. All right. And for all of our listeners, until next time, keep asking What If?, So What? And most importantly, now what?
You've been listening to What If? So What?, the Digital Strategy podcast from Perficient with Jim Hertzfeld and Kim Czopek, we want to thank our Perficient colleagues, JD Norman and Rick Bauer. For our music today. Subscribe to the podcast and don't miss a single episode. You can find this season along with show notes at perficient.com. Thanks for listening.