Where clinical mobility intersects with patient experience: The rise of consumerism

Healthcare organizations and technology vendors have been talking about clinical mobility for years now.  Much of the conversation focuses on clinician collaboration, improving outcomes and driving efficiencies.  While these are noble objectives, too few have homed in on the patient experience, which sits at the other side of the equation to advance this initiative.   

Yet, there is an enormous opportunity in using clinical mobility to create stickiness with patients that better engages them in proactively managing their care.

As a starting point, it’s important to understand today’s expectations about how people interact with organizations that provide them with various services.  If you think about the way people conduct their banking or how they schedule appointments or even order food, you find that more often they are using mobile technology to facilitate the interaction — giving them the ability to do this from any place, anytime.  

I am finding that patients also want to leverage technology to better manage their healthcare needs. Imagine if you could have the same level of access and service with your healthcare provider as you do today with other automated and mobile services.  This initial desire coming from patients will emerge into an expectation to demand and adopt mobility into their mainstream healthcare experience. The growing demand may even quickly become a competitive differentiator among organizations.

Patient portals have been used now for a few years, certainly making the patient experience better. The ability to communicate with one’s provider via email, get lab results, get discharge paperwork and view scheduled appointments was a good start, but is now considered table stakes when it comes to clinical mobility.  

So how can healthcare providers up the ante and begin to deliver more value via clinical mobility? How can organizations combine patient portals with patient front door type of applications that will help to match the consumerism experience patients will come to expect? How can we facilitate real-time communications between patients and providers using this mobile platform via a concierge approach? 

We need to think about what can make the experience better based on the understanding that we are all patients at some point in our lives.

If we get in touch with that experience, we can examine what good UX and design should good look like in the future.  Perhaps the next patient experience iteration allows a scenario like this: Someone sitting at lunch goes to make a physician appointment via a mobile phone, opens an app to select the provider of choice and within minutes of booking several automated functions send a confirmation email checking for any pre-appointment work that needs to be done (i.e. blood tests), any forms that need to be signed and patient education materials that are pertinent.  As it gets closer to the appointment another reminder email sends directions to the office, parking recommendations and restaurants in the area. The day of the appointment, an email or text reminder comes with information about whether or not the doctor is on schedule, specials at the gift shop and status of the parking garage capacity. Upon arriving at the healthcare location, wayfinding instructions direct the course that leads to spots of interest at the facility including the doctor’s office. If nothing else, this can reduce the stress around healthcare visits, particularly in busy urban medical center campuses.   

There are also ways to leverage the mobility platforms in inpatient situations that benefit patients and their families. Technology advancements of mobile platforms can enable access to the care team, manage temperature and lighting in the room, order food, provide entertainment. 

In the future, patients will want to have more mobile capabilities (like they have at home) in the inpatient setting.

Mobile platforms could be further leveraged to facilitate shared decision making – educating patients on procedures before electing to have them done, establishing care companion capabilities to remind chronic patients to take medications or send in their vital signs for alerting purposes.  The possibilities to add value and leverage clinical mobility are nearly endless.

Imagine having the same ease-of-use in looking at potential surgical dates or rescheduling appointments on the fly or accessing your patient bill online along with the insurance coverage and out of pocket expenses.  Think of booking a vacation and deciding to take your full medical record on your mobile phone or tablet in the event that medical care is needed while you are away.  

These patient front doors are similar to what consumers are experiencing with other service industries and will soon be essentials for engaging with hospitals, particularly as generation X begins to need more healthcare. Additionally, as healthcare organizations continue to integrate and geographic footprints become larger, and sometimes international, the ability to deliver clinical mobility becomes even more conducive to managing patient expectations and relationships. Leveraging mobile technology for things like telemedicine or post-surgical monitoring will have increased value for patients.

One might ask what makes now the right time to focus on the patient engagement side of clinical mobility? 

I think it’s the confluence of several factors. It’s a combination of changing behavior on the part of the patient population, the maturity of the technology itself and finally the development of reliable mobile applications that can integrate with legacy clinical systems. 

Healthcare providers finally have the ability to deliver this with the right level of security and protected privacy.

John Donohue is Associate Vice President – Enterprise Infrastructure Services of Penn Medicine.

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