Doctor! Doctor! Can’t you see I’m burning, burning… For some of you that old Thompson Twins song will bring back memories. For others, you’ll roll your eyes in puzzlement, and for still others, you won’t have a clue to what I’m referring. Just take this message — the song captures yearning, much like what patients all over the United States are expressing in 2014. But no, this is no love song. Patients are saying “Doctor, doctor, modernize my patient experience!”
Healthcare Technology is Broken
Hospitals are slogging their way forward, at the expense of patient care and employee happiness. Healthcare innovation executives are patting their backs as they invest massively on IT Services upgrades. Epic and other healthcare CRM solutions scream for better design that takes in the provider-patient interaction. But instead, these so called solutions clip the wings of otherwise well meaning medical experts, leaving them to create face time with their screens vs. being present for the patient. There is a massive divide between reaping the value of what technology offers and the enabling the medical practitioner to do what they do best.
Healthcare Technology Shouldn’t Be A Set Up for Failure
A lot of hospitals now offer patient “gateways.” These gateways allow the patient to self-serve, access his or her medical records, view test results and communicate with physicians. But even the email features of these systems fail. Theoretically, you can communicate with your physician. But like most things, the devil is in the details. Who’s really accessing these emails? Busy physicians may defer these emails to their administrative staff. And that builds in complication. When you trigger an email as a patient, you really aren’t assure of who’s reading it, and how long it will take that person to response. So the very feature that is designed to support dialogue between a patient and his or her care provider becomes a unpredictable, unreliable resource. Healthcare providers need to look holistically at their solutions and how they address real human challenges.
Healthcare Adminstrative Staff is Broken Too
For most of us, scheduling an appointment is easy. You go into a calendar, see an opening and presto, simply enter the appointment. In some cases though, this can be the bottleneck. Cases show that it can sometimes take some 2+ weeks to simply walk away with the date for the appointment with a healthcare specialists. Now, it’s reasonable given demand for certain subspecialties to expect waiting times to see the physician or do a test. What’s not reasonable is that it could take you 2+ weeks just to have an assistant tell you what the date is. Why? Is it this a technology bottleneck, a staffing overload issue, a poor organization issue. Whatever, the impediment, it’s important to note that the patient experience is defined not only by what is done, it is influenced by equally by what is not done, and how the experience occurs over time. Healthcare institutions should look at the entirety of the experience, including perspectives from the patient, and provider, and evaluating how technology supports both groups shared goals.
Break the Medical Hierarchy
Patient stories declare countless shortcomings in how they “experience” healthcare. One seemingly slight issue may stem from how healthcare defines individuals walking through their doors. You are the “patient.” Some institutions greet you with a request for your medical record number. Are we really now operating within an Orwellian society? Shifting the mindset from “patient” to “healthcare consumer” goes a long way to righting the wrong in healthcare. The goal of healthcare should never have been to transform the individual into a number, no matter how well intentioned it might have been in protecting confidentiality. That strategy was accomplished all too well in Nazi Germany. Yet, it seems that healthcare forgot to take in that lesson of history. Thinking of individuals as “healthcare consumers” accomplishes two things:
- the healthcare consumer is empowered.
- healthcare realizes it needs to adapt to serve the consumer better.
What’s the Answer?
Healthcare institutions need to come together with the patients to identify ways to design optimal patient care experiences. These experiences should be designed to take into consideration what the patient needs to support his/her health, what the provider needs to deliver the best possible service, and technologies and tools that advance the goals of both groups effectively.