As healthcare consumerism continues to grip the industry, organizations are turning to a slate of approaches to better serve patient needs and preferences, with none other than patient navigation protocol serving as perhaps the most effective solution, according to a new survey of healthcare c-suite leaders.
The survey of nearly 100 leaders, conducted by healthcare consulting firm Sage Growth Partners, revealed that 69 percent of organizations list consumerism as a top priority. As patients, who are increasingly bearing the financial responsibility for their own care, continue to be exposed to consumer-facing services in other sectors, they are expecting the same from their healthcare.
“Consumers are demanding these changes, expecting the same level of service and personalization that they receive from entities such as Amazon, Whole Foods, and Netflix,” the survey report authors said. “Healthcare organizations that meet these expectations retain more patients and acquire new ones; those that don’t meet these expectations see their revenue fall.”
And as organizations continue to meet these consumer-centered healthcare demands, they are turning to numerous options. Ninety-three percent of organizations said they use the telephone to conduct more patient outreach, while 90 percent said they lean on their EHRs and 83 percent said they use the patient portal to engage patients.
Only 39 percent of organizations said they use text message patient outreach and only 35 percent use customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Other organizations are making personnel changes, with 70 percent of c-suite leaders saying they are bulking up their staff and training them specifically to enhance patient experiences. Thirty-two percent have hired a dedicated c-suite member – usually a chief experience officer – who is in charge of boosting consumerism.
But it’s patient navigation protocol, which 57 percent of leaders said they have adopted, that is most effective for enhancing patient-centricity and consumerism, the survey administrators found.
Patient navigation is a service that conducts patient outreach to ensure patients receive necessary preventive and primary care, while helping patients to understand and organize their other medical needs. True to their name, patient navigators help patients work their way through the bureaucracy of the medical industry while accessing their care.
And these approaches work, the survey showed. Sixty-seven percent of those with a patient navigation program reported improved quality outcomes and patient engagement, while 65 percent said patient adherence to treatment improved and 54 percent said patient retention improved.
When looking at organizations that tapped personnel or technology strategies, these improvements are less striking. Fifty-one percent of organizations using other strategies said quality outcomes improved, while 27 percent reported improvements in patient adherence and 49 percent saw improved patient retention.
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Not all patient navigation programs are created equal, the survey administrators found. For example, patient navigation programs that leverage the expertise of non-clinical workers tend to be more effective than those led by individuals with clinical backgrounds.
Non-clinical navigators helped boost patient engagement in 91 percent of organizations, c-suite leaders reported, compared to 61 percent of organizations with clinical navigation programs.
Programs led by non-clinical staff also yielded 82 percent improvement in patient retention in 82 percent of facilities and patient acquisition in 45 percent of facilities. This is compared to improvements 48 percent and 33 percent of facilities, respectively, hosting clinically led programs.
These findings come even as 81 percent of c-suite leaders reported that their patient navigation programs are led by those with a clinical background.
Organizations that reported scalable patient navigation systems also reported better outcomes than those without scalable services.
Scalable patient navigation led to patient adherence to care in 68 percent of organizations, compared to improvement in 61 percent of non-scalable programs. Scalable programs also yielded patient engagement boosts in 68 percent of organizations, compared to 65 percent of organizations reporting improvements.
Having the technology to supplement patient relationships and navigation is likewise important, the researchers found. Organizations with both CRM software and a patient navigation program reported better results.
Benefits of CRM software included improved patient retention at 69 percent of organizations and reduced unnecessary utilization at 52 percent of facilities.
“The most effective CRMs are integrated with EHRs, trigger automated patient communication reminders for navigators and staff, and provide actionable insights in workflow tools that optimize the experience for each healthcare consumer,” the survey authors explained.
These results underscore the importance of a multi-faceted healthcare consumerism approach. It is not enough for organizations to solely offer patient outreach tools or improve their patient relationships; they must do both.
Hosting a patient navigation service that emphasizes patient relationships, taps non-clinical worker expertise, is scalable, and enhanced by patient outreach technology will be an effective strategy for supporting the shift to healthcare consumerism.
Date: July 11, 2019