This is not an easy task, and due to the special nature of the healthcare sector, patient experience planning is much more complex than customer experience planning in other areas, but it is still not impossible, as was revealed at the professional workshop organized by Positive Health & Care for healthcare providers on November 30.
At first glance, it can be challenging to define healthcare services as an experience, since our first thought might be that all healthcare interventions are accompanied by fear. However, it is important to recognize that in the ever-expanding healthcare sector, we are no longer "only" talking about patients who want to cure some pathological conditions, but also about patients who consciously take steps to preserve their health and take interventions not out of fear of illness, but driven by the desire to preserve and improve the quality of life. Accordingly, it is worth reconsidering when we talk "merely" about patient journey planning and when we talk about patient experience planning that also includes patient journey planning. Perhaps the most important task of healthcare marketing in the digital age is to recognize this and develop effective solutions for healthcare providers. Using its data-informed digital marketing tools, Positive Health & Care has achieved significant success in this field for both domestic and international healthcare providers. The methodology developed by them and proven in several cases can be effectively applied and flexibly adapted to any healthcare provider. The workshop gave an insight into this new way of thinking.
Experiences can be planned
The extent of the experience experienced by patients is nothing more than the quotient of the patients' expectations and lived experiences. The higher the expectation and the lower the lived experience, the lower the patient experience. The challenge is to manage the patients' expectations and lived experiences at the same time. Designing experiences starts with market and problem analysis. And the experience comes from the patient journey, that is, from what the patients feel is useful and important during this process, what they attribute personal value to. As Krisztina Horváth, Managing Partner of Positive Health & Care, pointed out, it is very important to make the patient aware of the values transferred during the patient journey while planning the patient experience. Digitization plays an important role in all of this, which clearly means constant measurement and analysis of processes, for which continuous and consistent data collection and processing is essential.
Continuous analysis = continuous development
Patient experience planning is almost unimaginable without the consistent analysis of related processes. The first step in planning is to define the business goal to be achieved - higher patient traffic, sales of treatments in a higher price category, increasing asset utilization, etc. By analyzing our processes, we can determine how the steps support these business goals, and where the fine-tuning opportunities are. This helps us to focus more precisely on the business goals, for which we need to create well-designed patient experience points. Data analysis is essential here as well, which can only be achieved through continuous data collection. It is important to note here that data collection without consistent analysis is not enough. These can be extracted from the website, online appointment booking systems, social media, applications, CRM systems or online questionnaires. Analyzing the data will show which points in the patient journey require intervention. These are real decision-support information, which show, for example, which patient is on the verge of dropping out and why. It also shows if at this point it is possible to intervene to convince those who hesitate with targeted communication or presenting alternatives.
Today, fortunately, many people analyze their current market and financial situation, the number of patients, the number of completed and ongoing treatments, but these only show where the given business stands commercially. It does not give an answer to whether what the business is doing is good or not. In order to see how it works through the eyes of patients, you need a patient journey-based analysis.
The essence of this is that we follow each patient through each step of the patient journey, even if it does not proceed in a linear fashion, for example, if they use other services, cancel or reschedule their treatment, or call in a family member, etc. Data-based follow-up of patients who deviate from the patient journey is also essential, as this is the only way to make sure that we can provide them with the planned experience. In doing so, it is necessary to examine why it "slipped" off the patient path and what methods can be used to redirect it. Here, patients can already be categorized and intervened with the appropriate tools for each type.
Based on the information received, it is not only possible to analyze where the service stands at a given moment in time, but it is also revealed how well the active patient pool serves the long-term business goals, and how ideal the patient composition of the service is. Based on this, changes can already be made, for example by reducing the time elapsed between the steps of the patient journey or by training the staff.
More accurate segmentation and targeting
In terms of segmentation and targeting that serves business goals well, we need the following information: where we are, so an accurate snapshot of the current status; what has happened so far, so a relevant trend analysis; what are the most important cause-and-effect relationships, there is to say what factors influence the trend the most. It is advisable to carry out these analyzes in such a way as well that the individual patients are accompanied on their own patient journey during the analysis. With this method, we are not only able to create and reach target groups more accurately and efficiently, but we also find "warning signs" that indicate, for example, the loss of patients or a suboptimal range of services.
It is often the case that individual service providers do not yet feel the need for such an analytical approach. At the same time, practical experience shows that the continuous use of analytics is now essential for successful operation. This is the only way to create an operation that provides continuous feedback on what the patients feel and how this can affect our business operations. It may reveal that the cause of patient loss is a malfunctioning reception desk or a parking lot located too far away, and with the help of these, services can be improved. What's more, the return value of each development can be calculated, so you can find out how the number of patients dropping out will decrease after a customer management training, or whether it's worth it to rent a nearer parking lot.
"For one of our clients, we have been carrying out data-informed marketing and service patient path optimization for four years, thanks to which 23% higher patient acquisition and 32% more conversions were achieved in the last two years. The patient journey was shortened by 15 days, the number of active patients increased by 41%, while attrition was reduced by 28%. The most important tool for this was the systematic, digital data collection, which could be the digital counter placed at the reception desk, the QR code embedded in the ad or the comments on social media" explains Krisztina Horváth.
A change of attitude is necessary
"Many of the service providers do not even plan with the patient experience in mind, because the approach and attitude are different. Many people still don't know exactly who they want to sell healthcare services to, they rely on their intuition instead of data, so patient journey planning can't be good, let alone planning the patient experience" Krisztina Horváth shares her experiences.
According to the specialist, the lack of customer experience is basically the lack of a systems approach. Providers don't see the entire patient journey, and when they feel something needs to be changed, they don't integrate digital channels to get information. The dropout rate was reduced from 22% to 9% at one of their clients, by creating packages and by modifying and shortening the patient journey.
Even a simple excel table can be used to improve the patient experience, the point is to manage the data in a structured and consistent manner. This is not a matter of tools, but of corporate culture: decisions should not be based on ideas, but on data.