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Health Systems Want to Improve Patient Experience, Don't Have Necessary Resources


In hospitals and health systems, priorities don’t always translate to implementation capabilities.

doctor with patient

Photo/Thumb have been modified. Courtesy of MIMS Today.

Nearly 90% of hospital and health system executives said their organizations are vulnerable to consumer-friendly offerings from non-hospital competitors, according to a new Kaufman Hall report titled “2019 State of Consumerism in Healthcare: The Bar Is Rising.”

More than 200 healthcare executives responded to the survey, representing community hospitals, academic medical centers, children’s hospitals and regional and national health systems. The report aimed to gauge strategic focus and intent toward becoming a consumer-centric organization, along with the resources and capabilities that aid in achieving that goal.

“The old, traditional ways of access are not what people want,” the report noted. “Everything is online and on the app of a phone. It’s not just about one interaction or one moment in time, it’s about building consumer engagement and loyalty.”

The survey focused on four key areas:

  • Access. Enhancing access to care through retail clinics, virtual visits, online scheduling, extended hours and patient-provider messaging.
  • Consumer experience. Addressing long wait times, billing communications and consumer engagement.
  • Pricing. Determining prices with benchmarking and analysis of service-level pricing risk, demand elasticity and price-volume tradeoff.
  • Infrastructure. Building a solid consumer-centric foundation.

Comparing a Health System’s Priorities to Capabilities

The report revealed that 81% of respondents said improving the customer experience is a high priority for their organization. But only 11% reported having best-in-class customer experience capabilities. And 20% said improving experience is a moderate-to-low priority.

Using digital tools to engage customers was a high-to-extreme priority for 42% of respondents. Only 32% said such tools are widely available.

Despite the ongoing digital transformation, legacy providers are focused more on developing brick-and-mortar facilities rather than expanding digital tools or virtual services.

More than 60% of survey respondents said it is a high priority for their organization to offer a variety of facility-based access points, while 10% said their organizations are “best in class” in this area. Having a variety of facilities was a moderate priority for more than 25% of respondents, while 62% said their organizations offered a variety of access points on a widespread basis.

Still, only 27% said offering a variety of virtual access points is a high priority, while nearly 30% said it is a low priority. What’s more, 63% said access points like this were not available or limited at their organizations.

Consumer Access to Healthcare

Health systems are putting emphasis on building facilities over convenience.

Currently, more than half of the organizations offer urgent or ambulatory care centers, while a third offer online scheduling for existing patients.

A majority of respondents (95%) reported having little to no subscription-based primary care services.

Common access strategies include same-day appointments and extended walk-in hours.

Fewer than 40% of organizations offer widespread “save a spot” urgent care, while nearly 60% only offer it on a limited basis or not at all.

Despite the need to have more consumer access points, virtual care remains limited.

Site-to-site specialty care, including telestroke care, is the most the most prevalent virtual offering. Thirty percent of respondents have these services.

More than 75% of organizations have limited or no direct-to-consumer telemedicine offerings.

Consumer Experience in Health Systems

Improving consumer experience is a high priority, but few offer organizations offer the necessary means to keep up with digitally connected consumers.

Despite more than 80% of respondents saying consumer experience is a top priority, organizations have significant room for improvement in this area.

More than 70% of organizations have widely available automated appointment reminders, while 53% have centralized call routing. More than half have widely available email messaging between patients and providers, while 34% have limited availability.

Nearly 70% or organizations have limited or no opportunities for real-time patient feedback, and nearly 75% have limited or no real-time referral scheduling.

But health technology can play a role in bridging the communication gap.

More than 82% of hospitals and health systems offer patient portals on a widespread basis.

And the use of wearable devices is growing in healthcare, with 52% of organizations offering them to patients on a limited or widespread basis. Other organizations (56%) offer in-home monitoring services, while 43% offer smartphone apps for their organizations on a limited basis.

The Growing Awareness of Pricing Strategies

A majority (70%) of hospitals and health systems said they use a traditional approach to benchmarking commercial payment to the market to determine pricing levels. Just more than 35% use service-specific price risk analysis, and 27% use price-volume trade-off analysis.

Large gaps exist in the effort of legacy healthcare providers to provide price transparency.

Almost 15% of organizations do not offer price transparency options, while only half respond to price quote requests within a defined period of time.

None of the organizations have an online tool that provides contracted rates for services, while 10% offer price guarantees.

A Lack of Infrastructure

More than half of the organizations have consumer-centric missions and strategies, but the initiatives are not supported by consumer-based performance metrics. Kaufman Hall wrote that it is essential for the success of hospitals and health systems to adopt a comprehensive, consumer-driven orientation and culture across the organization.

Only 26% of respondents said their organization has personnel experienced in consumer research and analytics widely available. And fewer than 30% of these hospitals have provider incentives based on consumer-centric metrics.

Roughly 65% have limited or no consumer-centric performance scorecards or executive incentives.

Suggestions for Improvement

Kaufman Hall wrote that to develop state-of-the-art consumer access, organizations should start with identifying how they can best serve patients’ needs. Then each organization should find growth-oriented metrics to determine access success. Organizations should also provide multiple access options, including physical and virtual means.

To create a better experience, organizations can adopt a hospitality mindset and think about “delight” rather than “satisfaction.” Health systems should also address every aspect of creating an optimal patient experience during every point across the entire care journey.

In developing an effective, consumer-oriented pricing strategy, hospitals may quantify their margin risk for shoppable outpatient services versus market competitors. Hospitals and health systems should also benchmark against market payment levels, not just charges.

Researchers at Kaufman Hall suggest that to develop the infrastructure of insights and analytics needed for a consumer-centric organization, hospitals and health systems should reevaluate how they measure their performance.

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