Patients Expect Retail-Style Digital Health Experiences

Posted on March 30, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

The retail industry has been pretty successful in integrating digital tools into their business. All major retailers have customized apps of their own, many if not all retail sites offer chatbots to answer questions and virtually all have spent countless millions on their e-commerce websites.

Healthcare organizations, on the other hand, are far behind when judged by these standards. That’s particularly true in the case of medical practices, few of which offer much in the way of digital sophistication. In fact, in most cases the most patients can hope for is a basic portal offering data, scheduling and bill payment options. (Ok, at times, bigger offices may toss in a kiosk or two, but that’s not a huge service upgrade.)

According to one study, however, consumers are losing patience with this gap. New research by NTT DATA Services has concluded that 59% of US consumers expect their healthcare digital experience to be comparable to their retail digital experience. This is part of a larger trend in which patients are looking for seamless care bringing together diagnosis, treatment, rehab and health promotion, according to Alan Hughes of NTT in a prepared statement.

Some of consumers’ frustrations around mobile options include not being able to accomplish what they wanted to do (62%), feeling that the options offered are not relevant to them (42%) and that entering data into forms took too long to complete (40%). This is not exactly a good report card.

Meanwhile, patients have a long list of services they feel could be improved, including searching for a doctor or specialist (81%), accessing their family health records (80%), making or changing an appointment (79%), accessing test results (76%), paying their bills (75%) and filling a prescription (74%). In other words, consumers see most of the digital services provided by medical practices as subpar. Again, this is not encouraging news.

What’s more, within the general population of consumers, there is one subsection of patients who are particularly demanding, a group NTT has dubbed “explorers.” ITT research found that 78% of explorers say that the digital healthcare experience must improve. Perhaps even more importantly, 50% of these explorers would leave their current doctor if another offered a better digital experience.

If healthcare providers can barely meet the needs of the general population, they’re likely to lose these explorers pretty quickly if they don’t get their act together. Medical practices, in particular, need to step up their digital health game.