Monday, Nov 20, 2023

7 Steps to Transforming the Patient Experience – A Collective Call to Action for the Healthcare Industry

Larissa D'AndreaGlobal Head of Impact, ResMed


In recent years, the patient experience in healthcare has undergone significant transformation, fueled by technological advancements, policy reforms, and a shift towards patient-centric care. As we reflect on these changes and look out over the next three years, there is a broad range of opportunities across the healthcare delivery ecosystem for stakeholders, including payors, providers, innovators, and others, to further elevate the patient experience.

Historical Evolution

The last decade witnessed a paradigm shift from a provider-centric to a patient-centric model, emphasizing personalized care, shared decision-making, enhanced communication and the introduction of digital health and engagement. Key milestones include the adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Telemedicine, which have bridged geographical barriers and fostered a culture of transparency and accessibility.

The Digital Leap

The healthcare sector embraced digital technology, propelling Telehealth and broader digital health to mainstream prominence. Patients now have better access to care, can manage their health through mobile applications, and benefit from virtual consultations, especially crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital tools have also facilitated real-time feedback, enabling providers to tweak their services promptly to meet patients' needs.

Policy Impetus

Policy reforms have also played a crucial role in reshaping the patient's experience. Ensuring that patient input – inclusive of everything from experiences to perspective and priorities – are considered in the lifecycle of medical devices, technologies, and drugs has been a crucial in the evolution of policy to enable increased access and improved outcomes. Policymakers from Congress to those in regulatory agencies are increasingly facing a rapidly evolving landscape that challenges the status quo of healthcare policy. Laws such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the US have expanded access to healthcare, while regulatory bodies have pushed for more transparency, quality, and accountability from healthcare providers both in the United States and internationally. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic served as the catalyst for an unprecedented expansion of telehealth and virtual care that enabled patients to access care regardless of functional limitations, restrictions, or condition. As Congress considers the future of telehealth expansions, hundreds of patient organizations have voiced their support for permanent expansion given the transformational impact virtual care has had in improving care, enhancing the patient experience, and utilizing team-based care models.

Looking Ahead: 2023 and Beyond

As I look out over the balance of 2023 and beyond, I see four key areas of opportunity for the collective healthcare delivery system including:

  1. Integrated Care Solutions: The future points towards more integrated care solutions where digital health platforms will be seamlessly intertwined with traditional healthcare services. 
  2. Smart Healthcare Infrastructure: Investments in smart healthcare infrastructure, including AI and data analytics, will provide more personalized and predictive care, enhancing the patient experience. It is important to note that these solutions require digital literacy and access to digital tools such as internet and smart phones. A successful healthcare future must also address the range of patient access to digital solutions. 
  3. Community Engagement: Engaging community stakeholders, including patient and clinician advocacy organizations, local health authorities, and other diverse community partnerships in health initiatives can foster a supportive environment for health innovations and ensure that community needs are met.
  4. Cross-Sector Collaboration: Establishing partnerships among patient advocates, clinical advocates, healthcare providers, tech companies, and policymakers can drive more holistic solutions for improving the patient experience by accounting for all kinds of patients and patient personas, needs, and conditions. 

Actionable Steps for Stakeholders

To realize a more compelling future for patients, I see five opportunities for those of us who focus on, and look forward to, the day when we no longer talk about what is needed to fix the patient experience, but what is working for the patient journey. These are the steps that can help us bridge that gap:

  1. Community Outreach: Engage in equitable and diverse community outreach to understand the unique needs of different populations and tailor healthcare services accordingly. Important considerations in this practice include accessibility, different capabilities, and the needs of caregivers who are often providing day-to-day care. 
  2. Promote Technological Adoption: Encourage the adoption of digital tools which can offer a more personalized and convenient patient experience.
  3. Invest in Education and Training: Investing in education and training for healthcare professionals can ensure they are equipped to meet the evolving expectations of patients.
  4. Policy Advocacy: Advocate for policies that promote transparency, accessibility, and quality in healthcare, laying a solid foundation for an enhanced patient experience.
  5. Tell Stories: Patient storytelling holds a pivotal role in transforming the patient experience by serving as a conduit for empathy, understanding, and actionable insight. It encapsulates the personal narratives of individuals as they navigate the healthcare system, offering a first-hand glimpse into their triumphs, challenges, and expectations. When these stories are shared, whether through social media, community forums, or institutional platforms, they foster understanding through a deeper human connection, transcending statistical data and resonating on a more personal level. This narrative exchange not only illuminates the patient journey but also empowers other patients, providing them with a sense of camaraderie and a platform to voice their experiences.
  6. Leverage Stories: Patient storytelling becomes a catalyst for change within the healthcare ecosystem. Healthcare providers, administrators, and policymakers can garner invaluable insights from these real-world narratives, which often unearth systemic issues or areas of improvement that may not be apparent through quantitative data alone. By paying heed to patient stories, healthcare institutions can refine their practices, developing a more patient-centric approach that addresses the individual needs and concerns of their clientele. This dialogue, characterized by openness and active listening, fosters a culture of trust and engagement, which is fundamental in elevating the overall patient experience.
  7. Transform through Stories: Storytelling facilitates a collaborative approach to healthcare. It encourages a two-way dialogue between patients and healthcare providers, nurturing a shared decision-making environment. Storytelling builds empathy. This participatory ethos not only enriches the patient-provider relationship but also propels the healthcare system towards more holistic and effective care. Additionally, as healthcare continues to evolve with the advent of digital technologies, patient storytelling can find new avenues and platforms, amplifying its impact and reach. The collective narrative, enriched by diverse patient stories, can guide healthcare innovations, policy reforms, and community engagement, ensuring that the evolving healthcare landscape remains firmly rooted in the lived experiences and aspirations of its beneficiaries. Through sharing a wide array of patient stories, the healthcare sector can foster a more inclusive, empathic, and responsive environment, cultivating a truly transformative patient experience.

By taking a collaborative approach and leveraging the potential of digital technologies, stakeholders across the spectrum can contribute to a more positive, impactful patient experience in the years to come. Through continued efforts in these directions, the healthcare ecosystem can build a future where patient satisfaction and well-being are at the forefront of every healthcare moment.

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