Telehealth – your COVID-19 passport to digital healthcare access

Telehealth – your COVID-19 passport to digital healthcare access

Preparing for healthcare’s next act

After a year and a half of new health seeking experiences from our lifestyle adjustments to COVID-19 pandemic, everyone now asks, when will things get back to normal? But as a primary care physician, and an ardent believer in change management, I fear that the resumption of normality will signal a failure to learn. Our effort must be not to resume but to revise our way of delivering health.

Harnessing the times

Healthcare feels like it’s been on the verge of transformation for years, if not decades. Unlike retail, tech, or even financial services, things move slowly in a complex, high-stakes industry whose only product is our health and wellbeing.

In a matter of months, COVID-19 changed all of that. The pandemic broke down long-standing barriers and accelerated digital health at a pace few could have imagined. It forced providers to rely almost entirely on digital channels for care delivery. It pushed consumers to do the same, with most welcoming the breakthrough and wondering why it had taken so long.

Even as people trickle back in for visits and procedures, it’s clear there’s no going back to care-as-usual. As recent research shows, most people like the convenience and flexibility of telehealth. They like the feeling of liberation and empowerment that comes from self-managing a condition remotely. The future of care they’ve glimpsed is not just convenient and virtual-first, but designed around them and their needs.

Expert in this field of endeavor unanimously prescribe from research, a few steps to Health care’s next moves to adequately adjust to the times. There are three macro trends empowering this movement, all of which shapes the customer’s experience. They include;

  • Designing a service for human success with a focus to helping people achieve their goals
  • Staying connected from anywhere in fulfilling consumer virtual care needs and preferences
  • Evolving towards a health ecosystem with enhanced value on integrated care experience

Designing for human success

Health systems working to get reluctant patients back in for delayed procedures and regular checkups are encountering a shifting target. Over the course of the pandemic, people have moved their healthcare — and much of their daily lives — online. They have relocated, eliminated commutes, changed or lost jobs along with health insurance.

In sum, many of your consumers are no longer where, how, or who they were pre-pandemic. For many, “success” in their healthcare experience has been redefined. They have new priorities, new preferences, and a palpable sense of urgency around health and wellness. Furthermore, they are more open to change than ever. Recent research shows that significant proportion of people are more likely to switch providers now than pre-COVID.

With the explosion of telehealth putting a premium on digital engagement, it’s time to rethink the entire customer experience, shifting from a facility-centered mindset of booking appointments and filling schedules to a consumer-centered mindset of anticipating and fulfilling rapidly changing customer needs.

Courting new health care shoppers is another challenge in the industry. Even before the pandemic, provider loyalty was on shaky ground — especially among younger digital first consumers. Now, as digital research shows, consumers are looking for a multi-touch, digitally-enabled experience and they are willing to shop for it.

Overall, likely switchers are younger and more urban, but newly COVID-driven switchers are under 44 and skew suburban. They are also more likely to engage in digital health experiences and select providers based on them

In a recent research to ascertain the changes in our health seeking behavior in the US, of whom 80% were frequent telehealth user’s pre-pandemic, 34 % were more likely to use digital monitors to access care, 19% more likely to visit a provider website, 14% of the respondents were noted to be more likely to switch provider’s now than pre-COVID.

This intriguing findings places health care shopping on the platform of e-commerce, about which consumers are engaged in deafening shouts in the quiet, as one author puts it “We need shopping not only to fix our health, but also to express our humanity….in my vision, each of us will fashion the healthcare we want and deserve. In fact, we will express ourselves with our health care needs” – Jonathan Bush

The challenge of meeting your patients where they are will require an effort to win their loyalty by re-evaluating what the critical success factors are in the new normal, and what it means to them, and then redesigning a service for the new customer experience.

In my own experience, I have mapped the full cycle of my key persona, the full journey of key scenarios in care giving, capturing the interplay among consumers, care teams, technology and data; and with a new understanding, I can visualize a seamless flow of telehealth service which reduces customer pain points, streamlines the business process hand-off between consumers, care takers and partners and more importantly, improves technology functionality and data collection.

To this end, it behooves on Health care providers to whip up R&D; an effort to collect feedback from customers, patients and employees by conducting qualitative and quantitative surveys in key areas of care. There will also be the need to pay close attention to audience segments and their motivation for engaging with you, record pain points and prioritize areas for improvement.

Source: Hero Digital ,2020; By Owen Frivold, EVP Strategy; Gianna Giancarlo VP Strategy

>>>The writer is Chief Medical Tele-Consultant at Flamingo Health & Wellness. He possesses over two decades, post-qualification immense and diverse experience in primary care practice, including mental health, from General Practice jobs in the United Kingdom, Ghana, and South Africa, with an ardent interest in occupational health services. He was among the pioneering group of health care professionals who introduced Electronic Medical Records in Private Practice in Ghana, in the last decade. He led a team that gave credence to the use of telemedicine as a tool for health care delivery within the modern practice in Ghana. His can be reached on [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]

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