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Time for Healthcare to Open the
By Marci Sindell, CMO and Senior Vice President of External Affairs, Atrius Health and Alli Chandra, Senior Manager, Consulting Service, AVIA and Jason Lineen, Senior Vice President, Consulting Practice Leader, AVIA
Marci Sindell, CMO and Senior Vice President of External Affairs, Atrius Health
Over the past decade, digital transformation has dramatically reshaped how consumers research and purchase services across all industries from retail to media, banking and beyond. However, the $3.5 trillion U.S. healthcare industry has been slow to adapt to this digital age. U.S. consumers demand “self service” options to explore offerings and transact on a 24/7/365 basis. Can you imagine a version of Amazon.com that only had a visible “Buy Now” button displayed between 8am-5pm? Taking the analogy further, the vast majority of U.S. healthcare providers’ “digital front doors” (“DFD”) are closed for new business -- the equivalent of an Amazon.com without a “Buy Now” button anywhere to be found. Healthcare providers lacking robust “Find a Doc” and “Schedule Now” digital capabilities are missing out on a rapidly growing digitally-native consumer segment. Achieving a high performing DFD with availability 24/7/365 across a robust website and mobile app are “must do” strategic priorities to attract and retain new patients to any organization in the 21st Century.
From growing patient responsibility for medical bills to the aging of the millennial generation whose loyalty is up for grabs, a multitude of factors are driving patients to act more like consumers in other markets shopping for services. At Atrius Health, a large non-profit independent medical group in eastern Massachusetts, we see more than 3 million visits annually, with 60% of those mobile, to the Atrius Health website. Furthermore, many of our “Find a Doctor” page views come from organic and paid search via Google. And, an increasing percentage of these consumer interactions are being performed on mobile devices that include the search term “near me”. In 2018, 50% of all U.S. web traffic was mobile, thus it is imperative for our digital front door to be mobile-responsive. These insights are helping Atrius Health develop more refined digital marketing strategies to drive higher levels of engagement with both new consumers and established-patients.
Alli Chandra, Senior Manager, Consulting Service, AVIA and Jason Lineen, Senior Vice President, Consulting Practice Leader, AVIA
For example, our patient portal activation rate across our established patient base is approximately 75%, which far exceeds the national average.
Building a robust “digital front door” for a large multi-specialty group representing 1100 clinicians across over 50 medical and surgical specialties is more complex than adding a “Buy Now” button for an online store front. There are numerous people, process and change management efforts to be undertaken. From a technology standpoint, the key foundational step is the development of a robust online provider directory and a consistent enterprise-wide approach to provider data governance. By establishing a central, accurate directory that contains the details consumers want (e.g., office locations, accepted insurance plans, educational background)and configuring search abilities to help filter and prioritize based both on known and inferred needs (e.g. accepting new patients, scope of clinical practice, schedule availability), organizations can both draw in more patients through search engines and enhance the quality of patient/provider matching.
Organizations with a provider directory digital capability can create a single point of access for provider information that pulls information from multiple systems including credentialing, practice management, and similar databases
Organizations with a provider directory digital capability can create a single point of access for provider information that pulls information from multiple systems including credentialing, practice management, and similar databases. They can publish those data elements for consumers to access.
If making clinicians “discoverable” online is the first step, the second step is allowing consumers to register online and to schedule their own appointments. Culturally, allowing consumers to self-schedule is challenging for the healthcare industry principally due to the fear that patients will end up scheduling with the wrong practitioner – a dissatisfier for both parties (e.g., booking an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip/knee replacements to evaluate shoulder pain). Even more basic but difficult is getting a group of clinicians to move to standardized appointment types and schedule templates.
While adding these capabilities and linking them to an electronic health record can be complex, it can be done and the results being achieved by first movers are impressive. It is time for healthcare to catch up to other consumer-facing industries and open their digital front door.