Launching the Right Mobile Strategy for a Post-COVID Environment

Half of consumers say a bad digital experience can ruin their entire experience with a provider, while two out of five say a good digital experience has a major influence on their perception of a provider.

COVID-19 accelerated digital innovation in healthcare, but it takes more than a smartphone app to deliver the interactions and empowerment that consumers now expect in a post-pandemic world. To provide value, health systems must deploy a tightly integrated, mobile-friendly platform that anticipates consumers’ needs, engages them in their care and strengthens their overall care experience.

Today, 62% of consumers would rely on digital health for health and wellness advisory services, a recent Accenture survey found, and 54% of consumers are open to receiving virtual care from their providers. But health systems are quickly learning that applying just any “build it and they will come” mindset to digital front door offerings results in lackluster engagement. Notably, half of consumers who responded to the Accenture survey say a bad digital experience can ruin their entire experience with a provider, while two out of five say a good digital experience has a major influence on their perception of a provider.

Achieving a value-driven mobile strategy that speaks to the future of consumer engagement requires that healthcare leaders incorporate three essential elements.

Digital Element No. 1: Wayfinding. Even before the pandemic, digital wayfinding was evolving from a “nice to have” to a “must have” feature, given the need to create a more seamless patient care experience. Platforms that include mobile wayfinding are able to serve as a digital companion throughout the patient’s journey, from the patient’s home to a convenient parking spot to the point of care. Today, the emergence of COVID-19 demands that patients know how to reach care access points quickly to protect themselves and others from the spread of infection. As a result, more hospitals and health systems are investing not just in wayfinding, but dynamic wayfinding, with the ability to redirect traffic when circumstances change, update maps in real time, keep patients apprised of wait times and even help them remember where they parked. The best systems also provide location-aware analytics that hospitals use to gain insight into consumer behavior. These insights inform and empower operational adjustments that enhance the patient experience.

Digital Element No. 2: Targeted push notifications. When breaking news develops, targeted push notifications empower healthcare organizations to reach consumers in the surrounding area quickly. During the first months of the pandemic, hospitals used these geofenced communication tools to issue real-time alerts to individuals in their catchment area informing them of protocols for triage, updated visitation rules, facility access and more. As the vaccine has become available, leading healthcare facilities are using targeted push notifications to inform local residents when vaccines become available and enable residents to digitally schedule an appointment.

For example, at University Health System in San Antonio, leaders sent geo-targeted push notifications to specific ZIP codes enabling an equitable and efficient vaccine distribution. The ability to maintain a full vaccination schedule has enabled the health system to use all its vaccine supply—a notable achievement, given that numerous COVID-19 vaccines go to waste because they aren’t used in time. The ability to communicate with residents in real-time not only gives individuals peace of mind, but also strengthens the health system’s ability to target vulnerable and underserved populations, helping to eliminate health disparities. Since promoting push notifications to support vaccine scheduling, more than 160,000 people have downloaded University Health System’s digital app.

Digital Element No. 3: Support for a seamless patient experience. It’s clear that consumers want virtual options for a variety of healthcare services. But whether consumers rely on a health system’s mobile platform to connect with these services depends in large part on the platform’s ability to provide a seamless, convenient digital experience. To get there, healthcare organizations must give consumers the ability to access their medical information, schedule appointments and pay for care directly from their mobile device. Best-in-class mobile apps also incorporate chatbots that help answer individuals’ questions and, when live support is needed, direct them to the right team members for assistance.

For example, imagine that your child is running a fever of 102 degrees on a Saturday morning. The situation doesn’t require a trip to the emergency department, but it may necessitate an urgent care visit. The ability to check the nearest urgent care center's wait times with the touch of a smartphone, reserve your place in line, drive to the center at the appropriate time and walk in without a wait is a powerful differentiator for the patient experience. This level of digital service reduces friction between the patient and hospital while leaving a positive impression that boosts an organization’s ability to attract and retain patients especially in a competitive market.

Distinguishing Your Organization—Digitally

COVID-19 accelerated digital engagement among healthcare consumers, but providers will struggle to sustain gains in engagement unless they pay careful attention to the quality of the digital experience they provide. By investing in tools and support that anticipate customers’ needs, amplify convenience and support highly coordinated, seamless care, healthcare organizations will strengthen their digital value proposition and provide memorable experiences that keep patients coming back.

Author Information

Joshua Titus is CEO, Gozio Health, a company that specializes in end-to-end, customizable mobile platforms for health systems. Titus is passionate about creating mobile technology that informs and delights users.