Healthcare executives have invested a fair amount of money on customer experience initiatives over the last several years, but a gap remains between where companies need to be and where they are today, according to a new report.
The latest research from PwC’s Health Research Institute has shown that U.S. health leaders are making building a better customer experience for patients a top priority instead of a “nice to have.”
It’s been six years since the Health Research Institute’s first report on customer experience.
Some of the experience features that consumers value haven’t changed, like convenience, says Paul D’Alessandro, principal and customer experience leader at PwC. “Five years ago, convenience almost trumped all with consumers. But now, people are more and more informed, and we found this time that quality and personalization are really beginning to rise as a consumer concern,” he says. “Now personalization in healthcare means you need to know me not just know my name. Knowing ‘me’ extends beyond surface of a name or even my generation. That's where the context of people lives and the situation they are in become more important. Social determinants like food insecurity or housing challenges come into play.”
This is where healthcare organizations can make more use of data, , according to D’Alessandro. “The next wave of customer experience initiatives need to focus on acquiring data that uncovers the preferences, motivators, and circumstances of not only different consumer groups but also of individual consumers,” he says. “Then healthcare companies can use that data to target their customer experience investments effectively.”
Specifically, the report found:
- Forty-nine percent of the provider executives who responded to the report said revamping the customer experience is one of their organization’s top three priorities over the next five years.
- Eighty-one percent of the insurer executives said their organizations are investing in technology to improve the member experience.
- Thirty-six percent of pharma/life science companies said remote monitoring and smart devices represent the greatest opportunity for their companies to improve the customer experience.
“We believe the primary reason for this gap—which refers to where companies are today and where they need to be—from wearables, on the web, through EHRs,” says D’Alessandro.
Health companies lack a complete view of their customers because they lack data, according to the report. Eighty-eight percent of providers and 64% of insurers said that having insufficient information about the customers is a barrier to meeting expectations.
The report found:
- No stakeholder has a complete picture of the customer today. The data they need is scattered all over the health ecosystem and beyond (e.g. community organizations). So now they need to figure out a strategy for going out and getting it and then using it to refine their services and target their investments.
- Existing measures of customer experience are insufficient; measurement is untimely. Ninety-seven percent of provider executives said that the industry needs new measures of customer experience that incorporate information such as psychological well-being and quality of life, active participation of patients in their care plans, how much the system is understanding the context and situation patients are going through in between care touchpoints. We need to move from patient experience measurement to experience management in a real time or at least in a relevant time.
“The industry has been talking about customer experience for a long time, especially over the last four to five years as consumers have increasingly taken on more of the burden of their healthcare costs as a result of higher deductibles and other cost shifting,” D’Alessandro says. “Because of these cost shifts, consumers are becoming more informed about their options. They’re expecting value for their money and a more seamless experience similar to what they get from other industries. They are starting to question the full continuum of their healthcare experience, including member, patient, retail, pharmacy, and wellness.”
Although there’s been some definite advances in customer experience in healthcare, healthcare companies are not getting an adequate return on many of the customer experience initiatives they’ve invested in, according to D’Alessandro.
“Most efforts to improve the customer experience have been focused on the administrative aspects of care like online billing, digital communication tools, and facility improvements,” he says. “These are all important, but they’re not enough. Health companies should start connecting data about not just the patient encounter but also the preferences and social circumstances shaping everyday health and healthcare-related purchasing decisions. They need to then use that information to provide a more seamless and customized experience and be able to stay connected to customers in the ‘white space’ of health. Bringing all of this data together will be crucial for delivering a customer experience that enhances the brand, grows market shares of profitable business lines, enhances margins and improves health outcomes.”