Leveraging Technology to Improve the Patient Experience

Improving the patient experience is a guiding light for modern healthcare organizations. 

Along with reducing costs and increasing the overall health of populations, it’s considered one of the pillars the industry must focus on to improve the country’s overall health system performance.  

Today’s patients are well informed consumers, and their expectations have helped set the benchmark when it comes to engagement, just as they have done in other areas, such as retail and financial services. 

And just as those industries have turned increasingly to technology to meet rising consumer expectations, it’s logical to ask how information technology might also improve the patient experience.  

The value of patient satisfaction 

One of my previous posts touched on the irony that those who experience the healthcare system as patients are often the least qualified to judge the quality of care. They are, however, the only ones capable of determining their level of satisfaction with that care. 

A number of factors contribute to the overall patient experience, but we cannot overlook one of the most prevalent measurements, patient satisfaction.  

Patient experience is the sum total of all interactions a patient has with their healthcare system; satisfaction is a measure of whether or not a patient feels the provider met their expectations. Despite the unpredictable nature of such a subjective metric, assessing satisfaction is a crucial part of improving the patient’s overall experience. But increasing the quality and degree of patient engagement can help establish consistent expectations from consumers, making it easier to meet their expectations and improve patient satisfaction. 

In fact, satisfaction is so important that gauging it is a requirement to receive full Medicare reimbursement, and an entire industry has blossomed to conduct regular patient satisfaction surveys. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services emphasizes transparency, with satisfaction measured by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), whose published surveys are available to the public for review and use in the selection of physicians and hospitals. The survey includes all adult inpatients, excluding psychiatric patients, and covers all hospitals in the United States. 

The role of technology 

How can technology help improve the patient experience? Well, a number of interesting options exist, especially for digitally transformed and enabled organizations.  

Using technology to enhance and improve the patient experience begins with providing a seamless consumer-grade experience. The modern patient expects communication and transaction systems to work without a hitch, cutting through bureaucratic processes and simplifying the healthcare experience. From checking in via digital kiosk when you visit your doctor for a routine visit, to accessing your medical records from the comfort of your own home, to messaging directly with your doctor via an online patient portal, technology is setting the stage for a better patient experience. 

The best providers clearly understand the patient’s journey and implement IT systems capable of reducing friction along the way, resulting in higher satisfaction. For example, who remembers having to carry x-ray films from one provider to another? Or perhaps you recall handwritten paper prescriptions that had to be dropped off and picked up in person in order to be filled.  

I remember those pre-digital days and they seem like the Stone Age compared to how we can securely move data digitally today. 

Security designed for modern healthcare 

Healthcare organizations also must deliver security along with improved patient experiences. A breach of protected health information (PHI) will no doubt weigh heavily (and negatively) on the patient experience. It is incumbent upon payers, providers and pharmaceutical companies to ensure that the data they have is securely accessible to patients and others needing access, yet inaccessible to everyone else.  

This is where we see the incalculable value of HITRUST CSF certified IT service providers with HIPAA and GxP compliance. These standards and controls help pave the way for a positive patient experience, and working with expert providers who have compliance expertise allows you to incorporate new technology without jeopardizing data integrity and platform security. You get the comfort of knowing that protected health information truly is protected and secure. 

There is no doubt that technology, and how it can affect the patient experience, will continue to evolve ever more rapidly. For example, artificial intelligence and machine learning will become a critical component of patient satisfaction in the years ahead. Algorithms, which already significantly influence the way we shop and consume media, will also play a major role in the future.  

Finding the right solutions 

Not all IT service providers are capable of addressing the needs of healthcare organizations. They need technology partners with the capability to provide expert guidance for their organization and field, and services to help them thrive with cutting-edge technology.  

Rackspace has earned the trust of our +2,500 healthcare clients. We understand the needs of the industry, and offer solutions that meet its challenges head on.  Our full range of modern cloud services can help your organization utilize the latest technology while still maintaining compliance with strict regulatory requirements.  

Joining forces with a partner like Rackspace empowers you to focus on your core mission of patient care. 

Chris Christy, FACHE, serves as Director of Healthcare Solutions at Rackspace. He has been professionally engaged in Healthcare for 35 years, working in both hospitals and healthcare technology companies. He brings 16 years of healthcare provider industry experience and previously held administrative spots with nonprofit and for-profit healthcare systems. Chris served five years as Associate Administrator and Chief Operating Officer at several hospitals that were part of American Medical International, which became Tenet Healthcare Corporation. He also served nine years as Vice President for Professional Services at St. Paul Medical Center, a 600-bed facility in Dallas operated by the Daughters of Charity National Health System, now Ascension Health. In addition, he served two years as Regional Vice President for Emcare, Inc, a publicly traded Emergency Room physician group practice. Over the last 19 years, Chris has worked in the enterprise healthcare technology industry. At SAP, he was appointed Healthcare Principal and in 2011 he was named Executive Director for Accountable Care Organizations as a duel role. Subsequently, he also has had healthcare positions at Qlik Technologies and Oracle Corporation. He joined Rackspace in 2018. He is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and has served as an Adjunct Professor for Healthcare Strategic Planning at Texas Woman’s University in Dallas. He received his Master of Science in Public Health from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Columbia, Missouri.

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