The Patient-Centered CIO: 5 Mobile Insights from Outside Healthcare.

When was the last time you heard a discussion of patient engagement that didn’t eventually circle around to Meaningful Use, or HIPAA?

I’ve been slightly baffled by the way we in healthcare have been poking at the concept of patient engagement as if it’s some abstract, unfathomable behavior that we have to incentivize and provoke. Our patients are already engaged…voluntarily, deeply, happily — it’s just not with us.

The Keys To Real Patient Engagement
The keys to genuine patient engagement are all around us, and finding those keys is a topic I’m going to be exploring in more depth over these next few months (so follow me here or on Twitter if you want to keep up.) To start off, I want to cover one of the spaces your patients are most enthusiastically engaged in, and that’s retail.

Instead of shaping HIT initiatives around government regulations, healthcare CIOs should jump on the opportunity to learn from the industries where their patients are already active and engaged.

Retail is charging head-long into customer engagement and CRM through mobile, and that’s why I want to share with you five retail-inspired ways healthcare CIOs can bring similar concepts into their organizations.

1. Empower clinicians as key influencers of the patient experience.
Retail sales associates aren’t only masters of their location. They now understand both brand values and inventory across the entire organizational network. Associates also now have access to tools that facilitate their understanding of customer preferences and customer transactional history with the brand. Patients expect the same from healthcare personnel, and they’re speaking out.

According to a recent Deloitte survey on patient engagement in healthcare, 34 percent of respondents indicated a strong belief that their doctors should be encouraging them to research and ask questions about their treatment. Another 58 percent felt that doctors should be explaining treatment costs before decisions are made.

Doctors have an opportunity to engage their patients in much the same way retail associates do and facilitate a cooperative healthcare experience.

2. Omnichannel is essential — Engage patients at all points of the healthcare continuum.
Omnichannel was a core focus for retailers in 2015, which meant streamlining the “shopper’s journey” — all the way from their online research habits to price checking on their mobile phones to evaluating their in-store purchases. Customer expectations drove much of that. In retail, omnichannel isn’t a choice, and healthcare won’t be far behind.

Healthcare has found itself in a world similar to retail where our technology and organizations are optimized for single-channel engagement, but opportunities for higher visibility and automation have been neglected. (A notable exception is facilities such as cancer centers which have managed to overcome much of the hassle and disjointedness that characterizes the rest of the industry.)

Omnichannel is one of the aspects of patient engagement I’m most excited about because it allows organizations to really dig into and innovate around BYOD initiatives and connect with patients where they are. At HealthGrid, we’re seeing opportunities to integrate the EMR into mobile CRM and deliver a new level of personal health information that aligns with the experiences patients enjoy and are accustomed to having.

So while CIOs are exploring text messaging and other communications options between healthcare entities and patients, they will also need to consider solutions that empower healthcare consumers (along with their family members and caregivers.) This means providing them with real-time information in secure ways that are also in touch with the latest threats to medical information.

3. Meet customers’ real-time communication expectations.
Look at how quickly Apple Pay notifies me of purchases — it’s practically instantaneous. Retail giants like Macy’s are also shortening their supply chains, and Amazon is blazing into same-day order fulfillment.

These are the speeds at which your patients live their informational lives, and it’s time healthcare started aligning with them.

The patient process through pre-care, point-of-care, and post-care can begin to look a lot more like the retail experiences they know and love with real-time care coordination information that keeps them and their families aware of their progress through the entire process.

4. Personalize the patient experience.
Retailers know that the best time to communicate with buyers is when they’re interested, so sales and service associates are provided with a world of information about the customer. Healthcare should be no different.

5. Leverage mobile as a component of a learning healthcare environment.
Retail is in the process of reviewing all of the ideas it implemented in 2015 and examining where they all shake out. While they’re busy focusing on profitability, healthcare has much more complex metrics to watch.

Healthcare organizations will need to be able to gauge just how and when the patient will engage in the care continuum. They will need to be able to identify gaps in care, activate those gaps, and at the same time, track their progress with real-time insights. Any organization looking to create measurable benefits in patient engagement and care quality will want to pursue visibility in these same areas.

Especially as we move into the holiday season, pay attention to non-healthcare environments, and I promise you’ll find mobile insights into how your patients engage that you’d never considered.

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