April 18, 2017

Everyone loves complexity, right? Complexity makes your life more stressful, more confusing, and generally harder. Sounds ... not fun. But if you're going to provide incredible consumer experiences in healthcare these days, you have to embrace the complexity of data.

Healthcare organizations nationwide are converging on the idea that health data is critical for improving consumer experience — it's one of PwC's top 10 healthcare industry issues this year, in fact. However, a full 51 percent of health executives feel that their organizations are not using their data effectively, according to a Managed Healthcare survey. Fewer than 12 percent feel that they're making a big impact.

The problem? Health data is derived from a complex web of sources: ambulatory, inpatient, and outpatient EMR data; practice management systems; lab information; patient surveys; and claims data, all from a variety of community partners (to say nothing of health determinants like financial and behavioral data). These systems, often from different vendors, are usually incompatible, making the seamless integration of data — and the exceptional consumer experience that data can unlock — nearly infeasible. Add in marketing data, and the web grows even more tangled.

But it's an obstacle every health organization must cross, and soon. Here's how you can do it, and what you stand to gain.

How Can You Embrace Your Data?

Obviously, your healthcare organization will have to convene that now-disparate data in a single location. But completely overhauling your front- and back-end IT systems on your own to be compatible is usually neither recommended nor an option.

A better idea is to implement a single platform that's compatible with each of your existing systems. There are a couple of options here. On the one hand, you can choose to implement a single platform that, through application programming interfaces (APIs), is able to seamlessly integrate with a variety of differing data formats on the fly. This enables data access from a single dashboard, whenever needed.

On the other hand, and perhaps most effectively, organizations can make use of an enterprise data hub (EDH). Rather than translate variously formatted data on the go, an EDH loads all of your data into a single data warehouse, where it's normalized into a single format. This means that not only is data easily accessed, but the speed you can process data (and the quantity you're able to store) is dramatically increased.

Of course, managing your data in either way creates a number of significant opportunities for patient experience improvement.

What Can Data Do For Your Consumer Experience?

The largest general benefit to embracing your data is that it enables you to create fully fleshed consumer profiles — with socio-economic data like social support, health literacy, preferred channel for communication, etc. and clinical data like care histories, lab data, biometric information, claims data, and the like — accessible from a single location. From there, a number of consumer experience features are possible:

  • Targeted outreach and engagement. With clear data at your fingertips (and ideally strong analytics, to boot), it's much simpler to identify and attract the consumers who are most likely to benefit from your care. Which patients are at-risk for certain conditions? Meanwhile, a strong data platform also enables you to more easily adjust to changes in health status, medication, and immunization. All told, better care equals a better experience.
  • Superior customer service. When you have a full spectrum of data available about a consumer who’s responded to a marketing campaign, whoever that consumer connects with from your organization will be better equipped to respond appropriately. Whether your campaign CTA is call-to-schedule or call-to-learn-more, even your call center employees can offer that personal touch. Better data means whoever picks up the phone doesn’t have to request information your consumer has already given or indicated, which translates to a much better customer service experience for the consumer.
  • Timely, personalized messaging. Once you have all the details about a consumer, you can send them personalized messaging that accurately reflects their health needs. This can include everything from marketing outreach, to medication reminders, to targeted interventions during the course of care, to post-discharge follow ups. In other words, you can offer your consumers a personalized, highly engaged experience across the continuum of care.
  • Seamless consumer convenience. Of course, you need to leverage this data for retail-like consumer experiences. To start, this means providing patients with easy access to things they want, like comprehensive medical records, including diagnostic test and lab results (i.e., all the data you just collected). Ideally, this will happen through a patient portal. This is crucial for ensuring that consumers not only are able to make informed decisions about their care but can also easily navigate through potentially complex care plans. Along with this, consumers should be able to schedule appointments in real-time — a critical factor in improving the consumer experience is in decreasing wait times. Meanwhile, a patient portal allows you to continually accrue new data, such as by offering convenient patient surveys, which further improves your ability to provide high-value care.

While there are few single steps that each health system must take to improve their consumer experience, the unification of health data is certainly among them. There's no doubt that it presents a significant hurdle for many organizations. But for that reason, those that move quickly will likely find themselves ahead of the pack — attracting more ideal consumers and providing an higher overall quality of care.

Now that all your data is organized in one place, imagine the applications you can build on top of a secure API. You have the control now. It’s your data. So what will you build with it?

Want to learn more about the state of healthcare consumer experience and get tips on how to develop a cross-functional strategy for your entire organization? Read our white paper, Healthcare Consumer Experience in 2017.