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Complex healthcare ruining patient experience: Nurse with Six Arms
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Complexity is crushing healthcare customer experiences

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The business of healthcare is killing people. Leslie Pagel, CCO of Authenticx, unpacks precisely why the patient experience is such a mess and how leaders can begin to tidy it up – touching on areas including the Eddy Effect, coversational intelligence, and how to combat healthcare complexity.

12th Dec 2022
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The business of healthcare is killing people. Let’s face it – if you stopped people on the street and asked them to describe today’s healthcare system, how many would say it’s 'complicated'. 'dysfunctional', or 'broken'?

Patients become bogged down in their journeys when seeking answers for their questions. They become trapped in a loop, bouncing from department to department, which only exacerbates their frustration. Many give up and never get the help they need. In short, all too often, the patient experience is a mess.

Digital innovation has begun to play an ever-increasing role in improving the patient experience, but sometimes it complicates tasks needlessly. New phone systems add barriers, for example, to requesting a prescription refill. Scheduling an appointment requires navigating multiple web pages. To improve patient experiences by building more processes, some healthcare organisations have inadvertently created additional disruptions in the customer journey.

The healthcare industry must rethink its processes, because complexity is crushing the customer experience.

The healthcare industry must rethink its processes. It’s time to evaluate whether those processes generate better health outcomes – or whether they create more complexity for patients. Why? Because complexity is crushing the customer experience.

What customers expect from their healthcare interactions

When patients contact their healthcare providers, they expect interactions that get them the necessary answers. Today’s patients expect their customer experiences to be:

  • Personal: healthcare organisations must recognise the value of connecting with their patients personally and identify specific opportunities to do so.

  • Secure: patients expect their personal information will be protected and kept private, whether it’s stored on-premises or in the Cloud.

  • Simple: patients crave seamless, efficient experiences that don’t require them to shuffle from person to person before they connect with someone who can assist.

  • Timely: no one likes spending hours on the phone or in a doctor’s office. Reducing wait times reinforces patients’ understanding that the organisation values their time.

  • Transparent. Nothing unsettles patients more than a lack of understanding about processes, policies or any number of issues they may encounter in their healthcare journey.What customers experience versus what they expect often doesn’t align. And when healthcare organisations haven’t taken steps to address or implement effective patient experience programs, their customers experience more pain points.

What customers experience versus what they expect often doesn’t align. And when healthcare organisations haven’t taken steps to address or implement effective patient experience programs, their customers experience more pain points.

The Eddy Effect

Imagine calling your healthcare insurance provider because you have a question about your bill. After a 30-minute (or longer) wait time, you connect with someone who tells you they can’t help because it’s a billing code issue. You have to call your healthcare provider instead. You hang up and make that call. Another 50 minutes pass before you connect with the billing department.

Then you learn you must speak with someone in the specialist’s office where you received treatment. They offer to transfer you, and the call is disconnected. You call back but wait another 15 minutes on hold because the receptionist has to find your file, speak to someone else, verify the error and fix it.

You discover another error and call the provider directly. But they direct you to billing because their process is different. Now imagine making multiple calls in a week – it consumes time and doesn’t guarantee you the resolution you need.

Over one-third of patients have their CX disrupted by a loop of frustrating obstacles. 

We call this the Eddy Effect. Over one-third of patients have their customer experience disrupted by a loop of frustrating obstacles, making it feel like they’ll never resolve their problems.

The Eddy Effect creates a tremendous amount of annoyance, dissatisfaction and irritation among customers trying to navigate their issues alone. It also wastes significant company resources on problems that shouldn’t have occurred in the first place, directly impacting the bottom line.

These challenges hide in customer conversations – and when healthcare organisations leverage the unstructured data, such as unsolicited customer feedback, they gain insights to help them improve their patients’ bad experiences.

Other challenges and pain points

While the Eddy Effect might be the most pervasive pain point for healthcare customers, it’s not the only challenge they face.

For example, the language of healthcare is confusing and difficult to understand, especially for patients who must navigate between payers, pharmacies and providers, each using its own vocabulary. More healthcare organisations have turned to automated tools to streamline workflows and increase efficiency. But sometimes the tools don’t work correctly – or the customer has a question or need that only another human can address.

People want to take ownership of their health, but there’s a mismatch among channels used by healthcare organisations to communicate and interact with their customers – many of whom use multiple channels, including messaging apps, email, SMS and social media.

The traditional approaches for addressing increased patient demand for information aren't working.

Yet too many healthcare organisations can only handle phone inquiries. Websites post only static information, which, if not updated regularly, becomes outdated too quickly to be reliable.

The traditional approaches for addressing increased patient demand for information won’t work. It takes time to vet, hire and train agents – and when more experienced people are pulled from the front line to train new hires, wait times increase exponentially.

Few healthcare organisations have the programs to fully understand their patients’ journeys while aligning the people, processes and technology to create a customer experience their patients expect and need – but solutions do exist.

Solutions to combat complexity in healthcare

Healthcare organisations can use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to collect, analyse and gain insight from unstructured data, including customer conversations. This data helps identify specific touchpoints and engage customers – even indirectly via recorded interactions – when patients need help the most. And organisations will elevate the quality of their customer experience.

Digital innovation won’t solve all the speedbumps patients encounter in their healthcare journey. However, technology offers part of the solution by empowering organisations to interact with their customers using an omnichannel approach.

Before investing in an automated CX tool, healthcare leaders must first research their specific customer base’s needs. How? By listening to them. Conversational intelligence – which uses speech analytics to listen at scale – offers a wealth of data from the voice of the customer.

Before investing in an automated CX tool, healthcare leaders must first listen to their customers.

By analysing this information, companies glean insights to guide decision-making on the most effective technology to deploy, offering the highest likelihood of giving patients what they need: a frictionless customer experience.

The healthcare industry remains convoluted and lacks continuity because each entity has its own rules for conducting business and setting processes. People don’t know what to expect, from pharmacies to hospital systems and health insurance companies to specialists. And the system won’t resolve its issues overnight.

If you want to learn where customers become lost in their journeys, start by listening to them. Through the power of unsolicited feedback, plugging directly into customer interactions and listening directly to the voice of the customer, you’ll gain greater insights into patient pain points. Use this information to guide improvements and adjustments – one step at a time.

Healthcare leaders must not only recognise the need for but also champion continuous listening and continuous responsiveness. With that approach – and a commitment to not just leverage state-of-the-art tech but use data and research to inform its thoughtful, strategic deployment – technology will help solve the issues it was meant to address.

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