Patient experience is now widely accepted as crucial to successful healthcare outcomes, both by policymakers and healthcare organisations themselves. Nonetheless, technology used by healthcare often lags far behind the tech that patients experience in almost every other area of their lives. For obvious reasons, this can have an adverse effect on patient experience and, ultimately, patient satisfaction levels.
A 2018 survey conducted by NTT DATA Services highlights a growing desire among respondants for more patient-centric digital health tools; some 59% want to see their healthcare experiences reflect those they have in the retail space. So, what can healthcare organisations do to drag the experience they deliver to patients out of 1994 and into the 21st century?
We live in a society defined by its relationship with technology; a huge proportion of our daily activity is punctuated by interactions that would have been unfathomable a generation ago—liking, tweeting and googling are just a few that spring to mind. At the centre of this latticework of interactions, sits the smartphone, a source of almost infinite potential that is traditionally under-used by healthcare.
It isn’t that healthcare doesn’t use mobile technology, it’s just that the ways it does are limited and do little for the patient experience. For example, while the near-universal use of text messaging for appointment reminders on the NHS is a welcome development that is certainly on the right track, it does not go far enough to reflect what an increasing number of patients demand from their healthcare provider.
Research conducted by technology firm, Open Market reveals that some 76% of younger patients believe text messages are more convenient than phone calls. What’s more, a major 2017 US study discovered that not only did 79% of respondents want to receive text messages from their healthcare provider, a further 73% wanted the ability to interact with their doctor or healthcare provider via text or instant messaging. This clamour for greater mobile interaction makes it clear that healthcare organisations could go further with personal mobile integration of healthcare services.
Smartphone technology can be (and, in some cases is) used for aspects of the patient experience as diverse as:
- Requesting repeat prescriptions
- Booking appointments
- Patient-doctor interaction
- Sharing the latest health campaigns
- Access to patient management systems
- Giving patients a say through consultations and surveys
This is all well within the reach of healthcare organisations, it simply requires some lateral thinking and working with a technology partner that understands the importance of patient experience.
Digital signage has been a feature of the healthcare landscape for decades now. For most people, the phrase probably conjures up images of the old monochrome LED boards ubiquitous in post offices, hospitals, and Argos until fairly recently. However, contemporary digital signage is a very different beast.
Contemporary digital signage is being used for so much more than patient calling and queue management—though both remain important facets of a positive patient experience. Current incarnations can now deliver dynamic or 'smart content' and messaging such as live television, newsfeeds, educational videos and the latest public health campaigns.
This smart content' enables healthcare organisations to provide relevant and engaging healthcare messaging while patients wait in a format that grabs their attention. The benefits for patient experience are obvious: as a patient waiting for an appointment, would you rather read the dog-eared copies of last year’s National Geographic and Marie Claire in front of you or watch the video on the latest public health concern playing on the display opposite?
What’s more, many smart content offerings allow for customisable content. This means your staff can be far more proactive in exposing patients to the latest public health campaigns, as well as providing information specific to their community.
Accessibility and Inclusivity
As 21st century Britain becomes ever-more diverse, so too do the patients in our waiting rooms. To reflect this, your healthcare organisation should be paying greater attention to patient accessibility barriers than ever before. By not doing so, healthcare providers risk alienating large swathes of their communities. Facilitating a level of patient experience considered less than satisfactory can make even the most loyal of patients consider alternative healthcare providers.
Again, current technology can help with this through common software based translation tools. Digital Signage is a particularly good example as it ensures that non-native speakers can understand and interact with healthcare messaging via it's ability to display messages in virtually any language.
Moreover, translation tools can be applied to technologies beyond digital signage; for example some patient self check-in kiosks include translatable survey modules. In turn, you’ll benefit from receiving feedback from the whole community, something that can only be a good thing for patient experience in the long run.
Another area in which patient experience has traditionally fallen short is accessibility for deaf patients. Consider patient calling for instance, in the past healthcare organisations have often struggled to make provision for calling forward aurally impaired patients—the result was missed appointments, a sense of exclusion on the part of the patient, and inevitably negative patient experiences.
However, modern digital signage can help provide a solution to the problem. As we found when recently working with NHS Newham CCG to foster greater inclusivity in the borough:
“We’re responsible for the healthcare in one of the UK’s most diverse boroughs, so the ability to digitally publish our translated healthcare messages has helped us ensure we’re connecting with the whole community. Likewise, digital displays have proved invaluable in providing deaf patients in our community with accessible healthcare messages.”
Chris Riley, IT Project Manager, NHS Newham CCG
Helping patients find their way with minimal confusion and staff intervention has always been a quick and easy way to boost patient experience.
In the past, this would have meant the extensive use of basic printed signage around the hospital site, and many NHS Trusts still invest in expensive manual slat systems. Such systems allow for individual slats to be updated, which works well until you take into consideration the time and financial costs that go towards changing multiple slats each time a department has a change of name or location.
A more practical (and dynamic) approach to helping your patients navigate is to go digital.
Introducing interactive maps or patient wayfinding kiosks that include ward directories and step-by-step directions can help your patients get to their destination faster and more efficiently. Digital maps have the added advantage of being easily updated as and when organisational changes are made—saving innumerable staff hours and ensuring your patients always have access to the most up-to-date information on where to find what they need.
Patient experience is a broad and multi-faceted concept, and the options discussed are by no means the only methods of modernisation. However, the theme that should emerge from them is the power of technology to act as both a bedrock and a catalyst for change. By utilising smartphone technology, digital signage and translation tools, healthcare organisations can become more reflective of wider societal trends towards smart technology, bringing patient experience in line with the kind of customer experience patients are used to in other aspects of their lives.
As healthcare becomes increasingly commercialised and patients demand more from their care, healthcare organisations' ability to move to with the times is likely to become crucial to their success. At the core of this is the role of innovation in constantly improving the patient experience.
To learn more about patient experience and how technology can help you improve it within your own healthcare organisation, view our infographic:Back to blog