March 14, 2024

Driving Patient & Member Satisfaction through Personalized Digital Solutions

By Carl Rudow

VP, Client Success, Healthcare Practice

Healthcare patients are busy people with busy lives. What’s more, their interactions with providers and payers often occur at times when emotions are high and frustration can easily arise. The more friction in their experience, the more acute those frustrations become.

Yet healthcare technology systems rarely prioritize the patient or member experience. They treat the digital product itself as the outcome, rather than focusing on how the patient or member will use that technology to accomplish their desired result.

Making this mindset shift is key to driving patient and member satisfaction. Failure to do so will only create further frustrations, exposing your healthcare system to serious risk.

What do healthcare systems get wrong about digital solutions?

If there’s a fundamental problem healthcare systems face when building and updating their digital solutions, it’s this: focusing on features and capabilities, not the outcome it will drive for patients or members. 

When patients or members interact with your digital platforms, they’re engaging in transactional experiences—scheduling appointments, checking results, verifying insurance coverage, etc. If you build a platform before understanding the expectations underlying those transactions, you won’t have the insight necessary to build an experience that drives patient satisfaction.

This can be a problem, because patient satisfaction is a major factor in the success (or failure) of any given healthcare system:

  • Improved patient outcomes. Satisfied patients are more likely to adhere to treatment plans, follow medical advice, and engage in preventive care. They are also more likely to communicate openly with providers.
  • Increased patient retention & referrals. Satisfied patients are more likely both to return to the same provider for future needs, and refer the provider to others. For payers, although patients may not have control of their plans currently, if they switch to a Marketplace plan or enroll in Medicare Advantage, a positive experience will no doubt impact their choice of plan.
  • Financial benefits. Higher patient satisfaction scores can lead to financial incentives for healthcare providers and facilities, such as bonuses, increased reimbursement rates from insurance companies, and participation in value-based payment models.
  • Staff satisfaction and retention. When patients are highly satisfied, they have better interactions with staff. This positive experience can create better employee experience and drive internal talent retention.

For healthcare systems interested in growing the size of their membership, driving patient and member satisfaction through their digital solutions must be a top priority.

The challenge of fragmentation among healthcare digital solutions

Let’s now take a look at how this mindset challenge plays out in the form of technological fragmentation. There are a lot of patient tools out there that serve different purposes—for example, different portals for each provider and payer.

This level of fragmentation is difficult to navigate, especially when the technology is built without the user experience in mind. Patients and members struggle to understand where to go, which platform to use, and which functions they need. It’s a hub-and-spoke model, where the user has access to everything they need, but has no clear direction on which step to take first.

Instead, the best approach is to build a system that’s laser-focused on the tasks a patient or member needs to accomplish, and tailoring every feature, button, and integration to that end. 

This approach avoids fragmentation and creates more efficient digital journeys. In the end, it can reduce overhead—which reduces costs both now, and in the future as your organization grows.

How to build patient- and member-centric digital solutions

So what are the practical steps needed to adopt this approach? Although the specifics of the technology will vary based on particular use cases, there are some general strategies that, when implemented, will guide you in the right direction.

1. Understand user mental models

At 3Pillar Global, we strongly believe in performing user research and understanding mental models early and often. Not only is it the least expensive way to build a digital product, but it ensures the end result is aligned with user expectations.

Too often, healthcare organizations ask: why do we want them to use our digital solution? But true user engagement happens when you instead ask: why do they want to use our digital solution? Then, you optimize your product development plan around the answer to that question.

2. Consider the overall user experience (online and offline)

In addition to considering internal user mental models, it’s important to think through the external experience a patient or member will have—both online and offline. Because to them, it’s all one experience.

For example, let’s say a patient enters their insurance information on a patient portal before their doctor’s visit. Then when they arrive for the appointment, the staff takes the card and scans it to retrieve the information. Naturally, the question arises: why did I input all this information in the first place? 

These redundancies and inefficiencies all contribute to patient frustration, which in turn impact their experience. Unfortunately, too often digital portals are built without consideration of the entire experience—which must change if you’re going to drive patient and member satisfaction.

3. Align technical capabilities to user needs

Often product developers focus too much on features and technical integrations, and not on the outcomes they drive. When user needs are front-and-center, however, you can strategically align your technical capabilities to best and most efficiently serve the user:

  • Seamless data exchange to enable effective billing, prior authorization, payment processing, and population management
  • Integration among payers and other providers without bouncing users from portal to portal
  • Ensuring flow of data among many systems and platforms while maintaining a centralized user experience
  • Enabling efficient and secure access to patient information—both for employees and staff, as well as the patient themselves

Final thoughts on building custom, patient-centric digital solutions

Building solutions to drive patient satisfaction requires deep understanding of the patient or member, their expectations, and the outcomes they expect your digital solutions to drive for them. Failure to recognize this will result in a disjointed, fragmented experience that does little to drive patient satisfaction.

This approach also provides a framework for managing industry-standard integrations (like HL7 and EDI), aging or failure-prone custom workarounds, and people-managed processes to achieve a meaningful level of interoperability. By using the patient or member mental model as a guide, you can strategically align your technical resources to serve a specific purpose and drive specific outcomes.

3Pillar Global has extensive experience identifying and driving user-specific outcomes and building custom solutions that avoid complex and expensive product builds. Not only do we identify the strategic actions necessary, we’re a team of practitioners who can build quickly and minimize time to patient or member value.

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