What You Should Know:
– According to a new report from Accenture, 2 out of 3 patients are likely to switch to a new healthcare provider if their expectations for managing COVID-19 are not met, including sanitary and safety protocols, access to up-to-date information, and the availability of virtual care options.
– Accenture identified four ways to improve the patient experience, and therefore your path to recovery, during, and after the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced hospitals, providers, and payer networks to drastically overhaul and restructure their systems to accommodate virtual care models. As a result, health systems’ revenue and patient volume plummeted, made worse by the industry’s slow-to-adopt virtual care practices that deprioritized the importance of patient experiences.
Elevating the Patient Experience to Fuel Growth
According to a new report from Accenture, 2 out of 3 patients are likely to switch to a new healthcare provider if their expectations for managing COVID-19 are not met, including sanitary and safety protocols, access to up-to-date information, and the availability of virtual care options. Based on a survey of more than 4,600 U.S. respondents, the report, “Elevating the Patient Experience to Fuel Growth,” notes that patients are looking for a safer, more secure, and convenient healthcare experience — including strict sanitary and safety protocols as well as virtual care options. In addition, those who believe their healthcare providers handled COVID-19 poorly were three times more likely than satisfied patients to say they will either delay seeking services for at least a year or never return to that healthcare provider.
By prioritizing consumer experience and delivering new virtual expectations, providers can maintain their patient base and grow market share by capturing switchers ready to leave competitors – potentially increasing their revenues by 5% to 10% pre-COVID levels within 12 months. For a $5 billion health system, this could be between $250 million and $500 million in additional annual revenues.
“Our research clearly shows that the patient experience matters now more than ever,” said Jean-Pierre Stephan, managing director, Accenture Health. “This should be interpreted as positive news because it means the future is in the hands of healthcare providers to embrace change and provide better healthcare experiences. We’re advising providers take this opportunity to offer a holistic, digital approach that centers on the patient’s access to quality care and post-care services; this will better position healthcare providers for long-term growth.”
In turn, Accenture recommends four actions that healthcare providers can take to improve the patient experience.
1. Address patient concerns in a personalized manner
Communicate specific actions taken to protect patients — such as offering separate entrances, allowing contactless payment and online paperwork, or even describing the advanced level of protective gear used by staff. When possible, physicians should deliver the message directly.
2. Meet people at the front door
Address unique patient needs and ease COVID-19 concerns before a patient steps foot into the office or enters a virtual waiting room. Embed new safety and wellness protocols and practices throughout every interaction, from finding a doctor to scheduling an appointment or completing registration in advance of a visit. In fact, the survey found that 74% of patients are now likely to use online chat or texting to provide check-in information before their appointment if such a service is available.
3. Enhance virtual care capabilities
Develop new models that use more virtual care, from bookings to meetings, so that those who remain wary of in-person care have more options. Patients have indicated a strong desire for this to happen. In a survey of 2,700 patients that Accenture conducted in May, 60% said that based on their experience using virtual care and devices during the pandemic, they want to use technology more for communicating with healthcare providers and managing their conditions in the future.
4. Listen through social channels
Actively monitor local and national social channels to gather real-time insight into patient perceptions and community sentiment. This enables quick operational pivots to address consumer needs and measure progress along the way.
“While many health systems have improved safety protocols in light of COVID-19, they must also make the patient experience a top priority, not just to convince people to return, but also to lead the way in re-imagining the future of healthcare,” Stephan said. “In this new future of care, health systems need to provide effective, trusted, reliable care—both in person and virtually—while instilling confidence and demonstrating safety and respect. Otherwise, patients are likely to switch to other providers who are reinventing how healthcare services are delivered.”