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The way patients access – or need and want to access – care has been permanently altered. Accenture recently surveyed 2,700 patients and found that 60% said they want to continue meeting with healthcare providers and manage their conditions using technology implemented as a result of COVID-19. Physicians are likewise on board, based on findings published in Gastroenterology. According to that report, 88% of clinicians at a large practice rated video visits as better/as good as face-to-face appointments. Telephone appointments came in at 41% versus in-person appointments.

This evolution in patient preferences calls for a new approach to the patient experience. While the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital tools, it’s an important time to reassess them for long-term success. A ssurvey of health systems professionals conducted by the Center for Connected Medicine and HIMSS found that fewer than 1 in 3 respondents believe their organization is providing best-in-class digital experiences for patients.

Integrating digital tools and solutions onto a cohesive platform is key to building comprehensive patient experiences. That platform can more easily meet these new patient demands while also helping to reduce the cost of care delivery. Here’s how health systems can build a digital experience that actually works for the patient.

The brick-and-mortar hospital isn’t going anywhere, but it needs a digital face. Patients come in, visit with healthcare professionals and go home feeling better. The care that got patients to their happy place remains a mystery, yet patients don’t think twice.

The companies and services that people love using are digital-first. For example, Amazon recommends products you like and then tells you how and when it’s arriving. When Google’s not serving up search results, these include zovirax famvir and valtrex it’s reminding you to respond to that old email. Netflix not only offers a slew of programs, but also makes personalized recommendations based on what you’ve watched. Lyft lets you know how much your ride costs, who’s picking you up and how long it will take to get to your destination.

Like these apps and platforms, hospitals need to rethink their tools and processes through a digital-first lens. Doing so builds intuitive journeys that enable patients to better understand and manage their care. The right technology can turn patient acquisition and care plan adherence into something that fits into patients’ lives. Take Hinge Health for example: They’re reimagining what healthcare means in a digital world. They’ve dubbed themselves the first digital clinic for joint and back pain. Their care delivery model includes everything you’d typically find in a clinic: private physical therapy sessions, personalized health coaching and real-time feedback from sensor technology. The difference is that patients access these services from the comfort of their homes. Hinge Health’s platform provides patients with support while empowering them to take charge of their own care. This model shows how patient outreach and engagement can improve when they feel informed and encouraged.

Many health systems rushed their implementations out of necessity when the pandemic hit. But now’s the time for health systems to reassess their virtual care programs and  build their ecosystems for long-lasting success.

First, it’s key for patients to be able to check in digitally whether they’re at home or heading to the clinic. Second, they need access to virtual care technology that doesn’t break under the weight of increased adoption. Third, patients need virtual care that’s at least as effective as the care they receive inside the hospital. Virtual care only works when it’s a critical component in a health system’s technology play.

Health systems must redesign care delivery to suit patients’ busy lives and  communication habits. With the right technology, integrations and data, hospitals and clinics can streamline how they schedule appointments, verify patient insurance, and answer questions. And paying a bill should be as simple as tapping a smartphone.

Convenience is no longer a nice-to-have. Patients demand it from every business with which they interact. Companies that do it right understand that convenience signals a commitment to the customer, end user, or patient. Reimagining patient engagement to mimic the ease of shopping on Amazon, the personalization of Netflix or the transparency of Lyft can provide patients with the on-demand experiences they’re accustomed to from private sector services.

At a time when patient preferences are changing and healthcare as an industry is reeling, there’s no question about whether to adapt. Technology can cut legacy costs and prevent longtime patients from straying to new providers. The only question left is whether your healthcare organization will watch patients leave or welcome the defectors with open arms.

To learn more about how Salesforce enhances digital engagement in healthcare, visit https://www.salesforce.com/resources/healthcare-life-sciences/personalized-healthcare-services/

About the Author: Geeta Nayyar, MD, Executive Medical Director, Salesforce

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