Friday, May 12, 2023

Good for Consumers. Good for the Workforce

Daniel FellSenior Consultant, Optum

HLTH Foundation

Delivering a health care experience that serves all.


Affordability and convenience are crucial elements for attracting health consumers. But, the fact that tools and workflows designed for consumers also inspire the workforce is often overlooked.


When there is conflict between patients and their health system, the workforce bears the brunt of it. For example:


  • A customer service representative who does not have a complete patient profile must cope with a frustrated consumer without tools and information to satisfy the complaint
  • A patient who has been sitting in the waiting room for a long time often unloads their frustration on the doctor when he or she finally arrives
  • A doctor does not have a patient’s complete health information available to them. Thus, the doctor is not able to see potential risk associated with his or her recommendations and the patient may not feel confident in the doctor’s recommendations
  • Many patients do not have reliable, safe, affordable transportation for an in-person visit. He or she could benefit from a tele visit, and many in the health care workforce would be happy to reach consumers through virtual channels


Keep in mind, a large percentage of a health organization’s workforce may also be consumers who are patients and members. Caregivers are another group of consumers who are equally important to consider regarding consumer satisfaction. 


Eliminate the friction of surprise billing and denials


69% of consumers are dissatisfied with health costs.1 They want less ambiguity related to costs and more automated paperwork.2 Consumers also want to be mentally and financially prepared for health costs when they arise.


Understanding pricing upfront allows consumers to make informed choices and avoid any sticker shock that follows when they receive a surprise bill. It also saves customer service personnel from having to explain unanticipated costs to an angry consumer. 


Coders, billers and others working in claims see the wasted time spent resolving claims denials. Technologies that improve proactive patient registration, confirm eligibility, secure pre-authorization and deliver price estimation improve the patient experience — and improve tasks for those working in admissions, attending clinicians, nurses, pharmacists, coders, billers, claims managers and payer employees.


Support the workforce and consumers with personalized patient profiles


Consumers (and employees) want to stay well and do not expect to spend their time, money and other resources on sickness. In turn, health care employees joined the profession to heal people and help them live their healthiest lives.


It is infuriating for consumers and their families to have to do the work of ensuring their primary care provider has a complete patient history, that there is no risk of drug interactions, and that everyone is viewing the most up-to-date records. In much the same way, care providers do not want to see care plans go unattended, outcomes decline and people continue to suffer.


Personalized profiles place people at the center of their care. They include wellness recommendations, financial considerations, preferred ways to connect and health risks. The profiles also allow for health plans and providers to collaborate to offer 24/7 personalized support. By integrating artificial intelligence, more care gaps can be filled. And complete profiles combined with smart data can identify exact barriers to care. For clinicians and administrators, this eases the burden of identifying social determinants of health and other roadblocks to care.  


Make proactive, preventive care convenient for everyone


Inconvenient hours, geographical distance and inadequate sharing of information produce costly and challenging health experiences for consumers and the workforce. Activating proactive outreach before, during and after any care event helps health professionals anticipate concerns.


Providing consumers with multiple options for how and when to engage health services can help eliminate the long waits in a clinic, ER or physician’s office — and eliminate the frustration for a consumer if they are only to be told they need to go somewhere else.


Additionally, for consumers, having to fill out the same forms and provide information repeatedly can be a point of frustration. Consider implementing technology in a centralized customer data system to combat this issue. A centralized data system can also provide clear discharge and follow-up instructions, as well as outreach 24-48 hours after a service to improve patient satisfaction. 


Online scheduling tools allow consumers to find a specialist and often offer convenient symptom checkers and other tools that prepare patients for their nurse line calls or doctor visits.


Another solution to satisfy consumers and the workforce is to better integrate in-person and virtual health. Sensors, scanners and mobile applications use facial and gesture recognition, electronic signals, geo-fencing and data capture to gather information. This data can then be shared with providers to facilitate near real-time health decisions. Even greater advancements come from the right blend of virtual and in-person care. New technologies have the power to put diagnostic tools directly in the hands of consumers. But consumers still need the dialogue and oversight that comes from visits — virtual or in person— with their provider or health coach.


Integrated virtual care also supports value-based care models. It allows consumers who prefer to manage care from home to do so. This frees up in-person visits for those consumers who need and prefer it. This method of delivering care reduces cost, satisfies consumers and allows the workforce to apply their talents in a more meaningful way.


Ensure technology is working for all users


If a technology is exasperating your employees, it’s likely not serving your consumers either. The health care workforce uses technology more and more every day and a poor user experience can lead to emotional exhaustion.


Issues with technology may entail training, usability or simply poor functionality. Managers need to understand the core services that both the consumer and the workforce need — and where technology is falling short.


Gathering engagement data from both employees and consumers is revealing. If tech isn’t working for one, it likely doesn’t serve the other. Only when technologies meet the needs of both can it truly deliver value for an organization.


By letting health workers guide the development process, leaders can have confidence they have collected the full scope of business requirements and ensure that new issues or ideas do not get lost in bureaucratic process. Another benefit is that employees are motivated when they feel their suggestions are being put to work and they know precisely how they and the health consumer will benefit.


Reward employees who impress consumers


Offer public recognition for employees who have had a positive impact on consumers and their families. These actions could include finding ways to save them money, making access to care more convenient, offering them a kind word or an empathetic ear, or connecting them to community services that support their health and well-being. It’s helpful and rewarding for employees to know that their actions made a difference. And it’s important for departments and teams to see when quality and satisfaction scores improve. Taking it one step further, organizations can tie compensation to every employee who improves patient satisfaction scores. Doing so directly connects employee performance to the health and happiness of the consumer.


It is essential that leaders create a health care experience that both consumers and employees value. By taking action with both in mind, consumers and the workforce will appreciate the way health care is delivered and remain loyal to employers, health plans and health systems. 


Sources:


https://news.gallup.com/poll/327686/americans-satisfaction-health-costs-new-high.aspx

https://www.cedar.com/blog/2022-consumer-satisfaction-index-healthcare-trails-most-industries/ 


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