March 5, 2024

Unifying Information to Deliver Seamless Omnichannel Patient & Member Experiences

By Carl Rudow

VP, Client Success, Healthcare Practice

Online patient experiences are never confined to digital spaces. While there may be a digital component, their online engagement is only one step in their overall journey.

Failure to understand this can create jarring, fragmented experiences for patients. When this occurs, patients are more likely to abandon their journeys, delay payments, and ignore necessary appointments.

Seamless omnichannel patient & member experiences, on the other hand, can enhance satisfaction, reduce costs, and drive increased effectiveness in patient care. To accomplish this, payers and health systems must unify patient information and access to create a single experience that reduces friction and aligns with their needs.

The importance of seamless, unified patient experiences

The delivery of complex journeys to patients and members requires an extensive degree of integration to access requested information. These can include SSO and publicly accessible search sites. Less common is the delivery of customized data necessary for individual members of your health plan to make decisions and take action.

Additionally, there are often different applications and tools filling disparate functions: finding a provider, customer service, claims management, prior authorization, etc. This creates a hub-and-spoke model for your member experience—they go into a portal to get the information they need, but get bounced around to different portals.

The result: multiple negative outcomes both for patients but for all parties involved:

  • Poor patient outcomes, as members are less likely to communicate openly with providers, resulting in fewer preventative visits and increased costs
  • Reduced retention and referrals, as patients jump away from poor experiences and won’t recommend them to family, friends, and colleagues
  • Financial losses due to patient drop-off, delayed payments, and excessive maintenance costs for complex, brittle online tools
  • Employee and staff frustration as a downstream effect of patient dissatisfaction

A specific example of the negative impact of poor patient experience comes from interaction with Medicare Advantage participants. Unlike original Medicare plans, Medicare Advantage participants have some choice in the plans they choose.

Consider, then, a member who just turned 65 and is transitioning from an employer-based plan to a Medicare Advantage plan. If they had a poor experience on the employer plan, the likelihood of remaining with that plan now that they have the choice is low—despite the fact that they remained on that plan for decades while employed.

As such, the experience you provide patients and the impact on your brand is critical to maintaining their lifetime customer value. The more fragmented that experience, the higher the likelihood that, at some point, you’ll lose their business.

The best approach to building unified omnichannel patient experiences

So what’s the solution? The wrong approach is to continue approaching the problem with the same mindset as before—seeing the patient portal as a hub for various fragmented experiences. Rather, payers and large health systems should invert the model and bring the portal more upstream.

In other words, rather than building the portal as a glorified link farm, build it as a true digital front door that pulls in all necessary information from other systems and ports them into a centralized platform.

This is real integration—a single, controlled experience, as opposed to duct-taping together multiple experiences.  Additionally, identify the areas where the same information can be served in multiple ways such as text and email to engage members who may not want to leverage a portal.

Here are three steps to take to accomplish this mindset shift.

1. Define the problem

Any time you send a member outside your portal to retrieve information, you’re driving dissatisfaction. Before you fix the problem, you need to define this as a bad interaction and acknowledge the problem exists in the first place. Only then can you move onto potential solutions.

2. Identify the most critical areas to change

Part of 3Pillar Global’s Product Mindset is to minimize time to value and solve for need. To do both those things, your initial efforts to streamline your patient experiences must start with identifying where those areas to drive value are.

One way to accelerate this discovery process is to look at call center data. What are the top five issues people call your call center about, and how can you enable those functions digitally?

This is especially important when you’re looking at the omnichannel experience—which is how your members view their experience. Rather than ask the question: What do we want patients to accomplish on our portal?, ask: Which steps along the patient journey can we make easier through a digital solution (not just a portal)—and how do we fit it into their holistic experience both online and offline? 

At this point, you’re not just building features and integrations for technical reasons. You’re looking at which functionalities will enable a more seamless user experience, keeping the member’s experience front and center and addressing critical pain points. Not only will this drive member and patient engagement, but it will increase satisfaction because you’re giving them what they want, not something you want.

3. Prioritize solutions that eliminate user friction

Once you identify the areas where you can make the patient experience more seamless, the next step is to prioritize which areas you’re going to attack first. The best approach is to build a plan to eliminate user friction as quickly as possible; then, and only then, can you go fix something at the back end.

Although the specific solutions will vary by organization, here are some possibilities

  • Electronic Health Records (EHRs) sharing that streamlines access to patient information, ensuring all members of the care team have access to up-to-date information
  • Mobile health apps and digital health coaching programs to drive behavior change and management of chronic diseases, reducing the need for expensive care down the line
  • Digital claims processing systems that more efficiently analyze claims data, identify errors or inconsistencies, and reduce the issues members have to resolve between providers and payers
  • Continue to increase turn around times and transparency within the prior authorization process
  • Telemedicine platforms to enable remote engagement with providers, engage in remote consultations and second opinions that could reduce patient costs

It’s also helpful to get into hard figures and look at the bottom line impact of user friction and inefficiencies. This will help you justify the ROI of investing in these digital transformations.

Final thoughts on building seamless omnichannel patient experiences

With disparate data at your disposal, giving the patient or member their information at the moment of need is a complex enterprise. By starting the process with the user’s experience in mind, you can create a framework and approach for unifying these data that enables you to minimize time to value and start building lifetime relationships with patients and members.

Accomplishing this is faster and simply when you have a technology partner that has experience in this type of approach. Our experience delivering cutting-edge technologies to healthcare companies improves both access to and quality of patient care.

Learn more about 3PIllar Global’s healthcare expertise here.