The patient experience matters in healthcare. A growing body of literature suggests that improving the design of the experience leads to cost savings and, more importantly, improved health outcomes. With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, the topic has taken on a whole new level of importance because it directly impacts many organizations bottom line. As provider organizations improve their approach to patient experience, they must leverage growing technological advances to enhance and improve the way they deliver, manage, and refine care.
In 2015, with the shift towards pay for performance and the proliferation of mobile phones in the United States, the focus on the patient experience is being extended beyond the four walls of the hospital and into the patient’s daily life. Providers are starting to make their teams’ expertise accessible by offering remote services that reach patients where they’re at – at work, play, and home. As one primary example, many are now creating programs for patients with chronic disease to guide them towards better self-management. These programs are increasingly mobile-focused, often incorporating custom-designed smartphone applications as well as SMS and telephone outreach.
Welkin Health builds an enabling platform for modern case management. In the course of our efforts to assist people in staying healthy, we (and others) have repeatedly found that the best patient experience we can build is based around developing a strong relationship of trust with a member of the care team. This finding is not new, as the modern literature on the influence of social relationships strongly supports a focus on human connection as a vehicle for enabling behavior change. Our industry is well on its way towards a future where patients have access to knowledgeable and supportive care from the comfort of their own homes via smartphones and other mobile devices. But we have not yet understood the importance of the other half of that equation: designing the caregiver experience.
Medicine as a whole is moving in the same direction as chronic disease management in particular, and is coming to rely on case managers in a larger and larger number of circumstances. This will be true across a range of conditions, such as follow-up for newly discharged CHF patients, nutrition programs for the obese, training for users who receive new medical devices such as insulin pumps, and many more. As we come to expect our case managers to handle larger numbers of patient relationships, and moreover to make themselves available to their patients on a much more regular basis, organizations will need to invest in tools designed specifically to support those workflows.
Welkin has found that by investing in case management workflow, we have been able to significantly improve the patient experience, even without necessarily changing the patient-facing side of the interactions in question. When case managers can reach more patients through more communication channels with less overhead, they are empowered to focus more of their energy on people rather than on wrestling with their software. This results in higher-quality interactions and closer personal relationships formed with patients, even as panel sizes increase.
Organizations that have already made sizable investments in modern mobile-focused patient experiences are starting to reap the rewards in terms of patient satisfaction, health outcomes, and cost savings. But in the years to come, these efforts should be paired with a corresponding emphasis on equipping case managers with similarly well designed tools. Case managers are users of this new set of healthcare delivery systems just as much as patients are.