One of the biggest changes in healthcare in 2016 is the transition toward value-based care. It’s a key focus in the new Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) and is a significant emphasis in upcoming changes to meaningful use. (If you missed our three-part series on the changes to meaningful use, go read it!)
Value-based care stretches across the continuum and includes everything from technology to patient engagement. The common thread in all of this is customer service. Customer service may not be something that immediately comes to mind when you think about your practice, but it’s playing a more critical role in how patients are making decisions, whether you realize it or not.
In a recent article outlining healthcare staffing trends, HealthLeaders Media assistant editor Lena J. Weiner emphasized the importance being placed on patient satisfaction. The role of chief patient experience officer is not only common now, it’s growing in importance.
“Your organization’s reputation for the kind of patient experience you provide matters,” said Susan Salka, the chief executive officer and president of a healthcare staffing firm (http://healthleadersmedia.com/TEC-324161/2016-Healthcare-Staffing-Trends). But that isn’t limited to just the face-to-face experiences that a patient has in your office. It extends into your technology offerings as well.
A recent report by EMC, a healthcare IT company, showed that patient expectations have changed significantly, thanks to improved technology. In fact, Dave Dimond, chief technology officer of the company, said that patients are mainly “interested in convenience.”
“Consumers buy across a spectrum of principles,” he told Healthcare IT News (http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/5-healthcare-imperatives-patients-demand-more-personalized-treatment). “Millennials buy on price. The Baby Boomer generation buys on cost and quality, and the builder generation buys based on quality and trust.”
The study pointed toward several key items that EMC deemed “business imperatives” that practices should pay attention to, including demonstrating transparency in treatment and medical records access, delivering a personalized experience, and operating on-demand as much as possible.
“The key theme is to know your customer,” Diamond said. “Go to your customer, the patient and engage them.”
Another key trend in healthcare staffing, according to Weiner, is an increase in population health workers, which includes patient advocates, social workers and outreach coordinators — all of which are tied together by a common thread of customer service. The goal of these positions is to help patients navigate the healthcare system as painlessly as possible and to create engagement opportunities along the way.
Lynn Vos, chief executive officer of Grey Healthcare Group, believes that communication is critical to customer service and patient engagement, but that there are often gaps that need to be closed.
“Key to closing that communication gap is providing trustworthy, accessible information,” she wrote in an article on Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lynn-vos/new-year-2016-how-consumers-will-rock-health-care_b_8899612.html). “Consumers need to trust their health advisors — doctors, pharmacists, and insurance providers — as they count on them to deliver care and important health information. … They want empathetic, needs-based, quality communication to help them keep themselves and their families healthy.”