By Greg Reilly
EVP Head of Experience
The patient experience can be overwhelming. Simply put, it is the sum of all of the interactions and touchpoints delivered during the continuum of care. An abundance of information online, more time in the waiting room, multiple office visits, and complex treatments are making health journeys more complicated than ever. The modern patient is an empowered consumer looking for options and information that meet their healthcare needs. Improving the patient experience, which ultimately leads to better outcomes, requires understanding patient goals (e.g. full recovery vs. quality of life), engaging with family and caregivers before, during, and after treatment, and driving health literacy.
Point of Care (POC) technology platforms present a number of opportunities to engage with patients, and those opportunities must be tailored to the audience to provide value. When a patient gets to the clinician’s office, they are often there for many hours, sometimes navigating different tests or just waiting to meet with their doctor. In the exam room, sometimes patients feel heard, but often they can feel rushed or not adequately prepared to get the answers they’re looking for. While far from ideal, this is the experience many patients have. Add anxiety and stress to the mix and you have patients who are finding it harder than ever to navigate their care.
Outcome Health provides health and wellness content in the clinical setting, combining digital content with interactive devices. We continually strive to understand what will improve the experience of patients as they move through the clinical setting, from the waiting room to the exam room. What we have discovered by connecting directly with patients and HCPs is leading to the improvement of the patient experience at the point of care.
Ask Your Patients What They Want
In 2019, as part of our new integrated Voice of the Customer initiative, we conducted a comprehensive research initiative to understand what patients want from their point of care (POC) experience given the challenges they face at the POC. Our research approach included:
• Stakeholder interviews and surveys with patients, caregivers, HCPs, and industry partners
• A multi-phase study with IQVIA surveying physicians, nurses, and patients
• Exhaustive content audit that looked at a range of topics, sources, and formats and evaluated the content based on its category and its quality
This extensive research revealed several things that are unique and embody why POC is such an important channel for patient messaging:
• Devices and content need to be matched based on patient journey within the POC.
• Customization of content based on specialty, patient population, and location within the POC matter
• Empathy makes connections – connect with the person not the condition
• Quality matters – Attention is fragmented and high-caliber, relevant content can breakthrough
• Interactive devices deliver value – Technology which can foster patient/HCP interaction is desirable
While we took a more rigorous approach to understanding patient needs through research, simply asking questions and having a dialogue about what matters to them is a great start. Not only will patients and HCPs appreciate that you’re taking the time to listen to them, you will begin to understand what you can do differently to improve the overall experience.
Context is the Key
Our research reinforced a key insight: every patient is unique and therefore has different needs. The patient waiting to see a nurse practitioner for their annual physical has different questions and concerns than the patient with a chronic condition who is discussing a relapse. A patient living with MS has a diagnosis, has been prescribed a treatment regimen, and may have a team of physicians working with her to help control the disease and improve her quality of life.
POC platforms provide an opportunity to curate and customize the content for the unique needs of specific patients. Diet and exercise content make sense in the waiting room for patients suffering from diabetes, whereas videos on how to prepare for an endoscopy is helpful for patients in the exam room of their gastroenterologist.
The bottom line: the context of what a patient sees and where they see it is important at the moment of care. Understanding the nuances of what information patients need at the various steps in their journey is key to meaningful engagement and patient value. To that end, engaging and listening to as many patients as possible, in as many different stages of their health journey, will help ensure successful experiences.
Empathy Always Wins
Another key finding we took from our research is that empathy, which we have made a focus of our content strategy, is important and very well received. Healthcare is personal and emotional. The journey can be challenging with ups and downs, progress and setbacks. We are all human and the moments of care along each unique health journey are an opportunity to not only educate and treat but show compassion. While clinical and educational information is still essential to help improve health literacy and ensure a more successful discussion between patient and physician, remembering and connecting with the human side of the patient helps improve the overall experience at the point of care. Empathy in content experiences reminds us to address the whole person, not just the condition.
Aligning with Moments of Care
As we all react to the current coronavirus and work to identify the next normal, patients are confused, anxious, and scared. This makes the importance of high quality, empathetic information with appropriate context more important than ever. One thing that is clear is that if we provide high-quality, engaging content that is educational, relevant, and above all empathic, POC resources can help providers improve the patient experience during critical moments of care.
There are many factors that contribute to the patient experience. Upon diagnosis, POC may educate and provide hope; during chemo, POC may provide a diversion with entertainment; and for those awaiting test results, POC content helps patients relax. Along the healthcare journey, there are opportunities to deliver content that is appropriately matched to that particular moment of care. POC has the ability to contribute to a more positive patient experience – with the tremendous possibilities offered by the right combination of content, context and devices.