Jun 01 2022

Building Patient Trust with Access to Digital-First Healthcare

Digital patient access is key for healthcare organizations looking to enhance a holistic approach to care.

After the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly shifted healthcare from in-person visits to virtual appointments, patients embraced new communication tools that quickly connected them with providers, schedules and their health records.

Telehealth use has increased 38 times from the pre-pandemic baseline, according to research from McKinsey. And as more patients flock to providers with established digital patient platforms, those healthcare organizations that have not prioritized their digital presence are having to invest in new patient experiences to keep up.

Digital patient access provides a single, centralized entry point for patients’ healthcare needs. This can range from online messaging, appointment scheduling and provider questions to billing, virtual visits and even certain medical results. These IT integrations will also result in more mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity as providers look to remain competitive while meeting efficiency and cost-effectiveness goals.

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Meeting Patient Demand for Digital Access

Digital patient access can help providers engage patients at every point in their care journeys, using technologies that patients already use in their daily lives. Today, patients have heightened expectations for simple digital experiences and smartphone-native applications that provide a convenient and intuitive end-to-end digital experience.

However, healthcare still lags behind other industries in providing consumers with that convenient digital experience. Healthcare is one of the most digitally immature sectors on average, according to a recent BGC report, with correspondingly lower digital transformation success rates.

There are several reasons why this isn’t something that patients will accept in 2022. For example, digital communications such as telehealth offer patients more choice, convenience and lower costs around their healthcare needs.

EXPLORE: How modernization journeys in healthcare center the patient.

Digital patient access can also reduce the need for in-person visits that can be hard, time-consuming and expensive for patients due to their recovery, commuting distance and charges from their provider. What’s more, the convenience in having a one-stop shop solidifies trust and loyalty.

That’s why more organizations are realizing the need for these kinds of centralized platforms. Providers can see the benefits of broader communication and patient outreach. The current digital communication process is fragmented, forcing patients to use too many different health platforms to access medical records, research provider information or chat with experts. To keep up with patient demands, health delivery organizations (HDOs) are starting to recognize the value of enhancing their digital capabilities.

How Data Helps Patients Engage with Healthcare

The other key element of digital patient access is the data it generates. Smartphones and tablets give HDOs better data insight into their patients. This kind of data helps providers make better, more informed decisions for their patients because all the key information is easily accessible in one place.  

Most current digital healthcare communications require patients to create and manage multiple identities with varying usernames and passwords — a nightmare to manage, especially with something as important as receiving care. As patients sought secondary — and sometimes tertiary — providers due to care delays during the pandemic, the result was that their patient records are now housed in various systems across several different healthcare providers. When communication and engagement take place across multiple portals, patients won’t receive a consistent experience.

READ MORE: Find out why the future of healthcare starts with a digital experience.

Effectively engaging patients, especially those with more complex care needs, requires a more holistic approach. Transitioning to a single patient data platform, with a central point of control, can provide better care. For example, a centralized data platform enables better engagement, data analytics, data-driven decision-making and care management as providers shift to value-based care models.

Providers who have all a patient’s health data in one place will be better positioned to provide care recommendations based on a patient’s full healthcare history — not a one-off visit. Decentralized patient records across multiple patient platforms and portals create substantial challenges in providing better care.

Investing in Digital Experiences for Patients

Ultimately, HDOs are seeing the benefits of digital patient access, and they want to better meet patient needs with a seamless, start-to-finish approach to healthcare. However, achieving this will require continued investment throughout 2022 and beyond.

To keep up with patient demand for exploring digital avenues before entering a physical clinic, healthcare will see more M&A activity and investments in technology to do so securely and efficiently. This investment must focus on technologies that centralize information and better integrate consumer-grade tools into the patient experience — all with the goal of delivering simpler remote digital experiences for both patients and providers.

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