Healthcare News & Insights

Catch up with the digital age using 3 transitional healthcare strategies

The digital age is here. Unfortunately, the healthcare industry is lagging behind. In this guest post, Shawn Yates, director of product management for a company that develops a variety of information systems for providers, reveals key transition strategy points hospitals need to consider as they move to update their digital presence.


More than a hundred million Americans walk around with a cell phone-sized computer. They correspond via text, email and mobile websites on a regular basis. They use these tools to satisfy their financial obligations, and they expect any business with which they interact to support this convenience. Expanded use of these consumer interaction gadgets happens every day. Even retail giant Amazon has added devices to the mix, including Alexa with Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show and the Echo Spot this past December. These devices have all provided new ways for Amazon to correspond with a consumer in ordering items, getting updates and supplying information from the web.

But as the digital age rushes forward, health care remains in the 1990s. In the latest InstaMed survey, 87% of consumers reported receiving their hospital bills via mail, while 81% of the same survey group stated they pay their household bills digitally now. As providers try to become digital, they must understand it isn’t as simple as setting up a web portal. Without a proper transition strategy, doing so would likely make things worse. The key to aligning with a digital strategy is to rethink how you view the patient to help ensure you provide the right experience.

So, as you start to think about your digital path, here are some key transition strategy points to consider:

  • Put the patient at the top of the pyramid
    We often view the patient as the centerpiece of any process. They are at the center and on the outside in a circular pattern are all the interaction points. This evaluation is accurate, but consider how it changes across multiple visits with multiple locations. Providers often use multiple, disparate data systems created by mergers/acquisitions, different software versions or different business lines, like physician and hospital.
    This separation of data makes it hard to show the patient one complete picture. As a result, it’s important to present a digital option where the patient can see all of their account data in one web portal that shows all their visits across platforms and/or CBOs. If this is not available and the patient has to visit multiple sites or pages, they’ll get very frustrated. Remember, these same people interact with other business entities that give them online options today. Aggregating all this data into one location so it can be viewed on a single digital platform by the patient is key to putting them at the top of the pyramid.
  • Get internal, patient-facing staff looking at the same picture
    Even though these consumers live in the digital age, they’ll still need to call into a call center or come to the business office at times. When that happens, your staff need to see the same picture the patient does. If the patient must call multiple locations to get information on their visits when they can get a single view on-line, they will get frustrated. So, as you pull the data together for the patient to view digitally, make sure your internal staff can see the same view and talk to the patient about all their visits with one communication.
  • Let the patient decide how you communicate
    Earlier, we talked about how Amazon communicates with their customers. In this consumer experience, they decide how they want to get updates from Amazon: email, app updates and Alexa are all made available. You as the consumer go in and make these choices. Healthcare providers must do the same. If a patient wants their bill emailed after their visit, they should only have to tell you once. They should be able to go to a portal or call in and make changes to their communication preferences. These selections should then carry over to each visit, current and future. Like Amazon, your customers – patients – should only have to select once, with every interaction following suit afterward. It’s important you have the same functionality for your consumers, as you go down the digital path.

The nature of health care creates its own set of challenges with multiple EHR systems and CBOs, much of which stems from tremendous acquisition activity over the last five years. As you move forward with your digital transition strategy, it’s important you factor in the dynamics of your situation. If you rethink how the patient sits in the process and ensure you show a single view externally and internally, you’ll be off to the right start.

Once you are up and running, make sure you give the patient the ability to choose their communication method. This allows them the same flexibility they have today with other businesses. Following these strategy points will help you head down the right path, and help ensure you don’t frustrate your patients as you pave the way for a smooth transition.

Shawn Yates serves as director of product management for Ontario Systems, a company that develops a variety of information systems for providers.

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