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The Role of Omnichannel Patient Engagement in Healthcare

Peiru Teo

Peiru Teo

Omnichannel patient engagement means providing patients a simple unified pathway that improves their overall experience across the care continuum in their healthcare journey. In the digital age, patient care delivery is becoming one of the most important metrics for healthcare organizations. Omnichannel healthcare is now an integral part of digitalization.

With the adoption of  digital channels, patients feel more comfortable to visit the clinic, thereby leading to a true omnichannel patient experience. For example, digital collaboration and analytics are playing a significant role in improving healthcare delivery. 

Healthcare providers can leverage these tools to create an effective patient experience that further enhances their interactions, and processes involved in care delivery. It will not only create a value-based environment for the providers but also result in a superior patient experience.

A successful strategy for building an omnichannel healthcare includes optimizing patient outcomes with meaningful experience. Omnichannel patient engagement is a strategy that aims to empower patients and simultaneously accelerate digital transformation in the healthcare industry.

What is Omnichannel Patient Engagement in Healthcare?

Omnichannel patient engagement provides a pathway to the patients where they have more control over their health outcomes, and openly communicate with the providers through their preferred channels.

omnichannel healthcare strategy allows an interplay of physical and digital channels to deliver a seamless interaction and thus boosting the patient experience. It helps the providers to restructure the framework of routine workflows such as physical patient visits, back-office tasks related to patients and case management. Such an effective approach has several benefits:

  • There is less scope of error due to less manual tasks, less paperwork, and less manual allocation of resources. Thus, it reduces patient waiting time and improves efficiency.
  • Healthcare workers such as clinicians and nurses are not burdened by documentation and administrative tasks.

Building an omnichannel healthcare strategy that truly delivers quality patient experience is based on a digital-first approach. These advanced technologies differ from the conventional patient engagement tools used in healthcare, such as clinical notes, or patient portal, however they have their own significance in clinical practice.

Omnichannel patient experience includes multiple modalities by which the patient can connect with the providers depending on the needs, related to communication, accessing care, or patient awareness. Important technologies commonly included in omnichannel patient engagement are, but not limited to:

  • Artificial intelligence chatbots
  • Online appointment scheduling
  • Telehealth using Video & Voice Chat
  • Messaging Channels such as WhatsApp, SMS & Facebook
  • Digital patient intake
  • Digital wayfinding
  • Self-management portals
  • Online patient education modules
  • Online bill pay and price transparency

Benefits of Omnichannel Healthcare Engagement

An omnichannel interaction is evolving into a unifying patient engagement and holistic experience. It is not just about utilization of tools and apps. Healthcare systems have fragmented entry touch points which can be intertwined systematically with an omnichannel patient centric approach.

Automate patient outreach: Automation provides an increased scope of scheduling capacity by engaging in prompt conversations around appointment confirmation and availability. Easy and simple interaction ensures better patient outcomes through proactive notifications that promote treatment adherence.

Enhance patient satisfaction and retention: Artificial intelligence and machine learning enable patients to get quick responses at their preferred channel. An AI-powered chatbot can be used for assessing patient’s inquiries, shifting them towards a self-service mode. It allows an effective use of live agents and reduces expenditure on support costs.

Improve agent experiences and reduce costs: By automating responses with the help of chatbots aka virtual assistants, costs can be effectively reduced. Additionally, useful insights from AI and machine learning can improve the live agent’s understanding and experience.

Efficient communication between clinicians, caregivers, and patients: With digital tools, patients can easily schedule an appointment. Mobile apps, online patient portals and conversational AI are channels that support communication between the patient, clinician, and caregiver. It increases accountability and creates a more trustworthy environment for patient care.

Putting an Omnichannel Patient Engagement Approach into Action for a Healthcare System

Make consumers aware

The omnichannel method provides incredible outcomes for patients, but healthcare organizations should educate the consumers as to how to use these technologies.

Empower Patients with information

Omnichannel patient engagement is possible if healthcare systems empower patients with relevant awareness. Patients who are actively engaged in their treatment journey understand the process and trust the caregivers. In addition, self-service builds accountability which in turn results in high patient engagement.

Healthcare providers can create awareness regarding different tools that are available for scheduling appointments, post-surgery recovery and other self-service technologies.

Modify patient’s behavior by proactive notification

Proactive notifications have the potential to improve patient’s understanding about their own health and medical condition. Sending personalized messages according to the care plan, and medicine reminders encourage patients to follow them.  It will transform a patient’s behavior and well-being.

Understand the digital divide

Digital health offering may depend on certain factors such as accessibility, patient preferences and digital health literacy. Thus, healthcare organizations should understand this digital divide to build a more targeted strategy for an Omnichannel Patient Engagement Approach.

Organizations should promote health equality so that patients who do not have access to digital tools can use other alternatives. For example, patients without a smartphone who cannot avail virtual care can reach out to providers through phone calls

Embrace technology and tools

The Healthcare industry has its own unique ecosystem making it comparatively slow to implement new technologies.

Optimize digital tools for mobile

Everyone has a mobile phone now that has made life so much better than what it used to be before. Whether it is scheduling an appointment, engaging with the hospital, or paying the discharge bills patients can manage so many tasks through their phones. Health IT should ensure that mobile apps are simple, clean and updated regularly. An app that understands what the consumers want will result in higher conversion rate and more retention.

Build easy to navigate outreach tools

Healthcare organizations should focus on developing marketing outreach tools to improve patient experience.  Options such as:

  • An attractive easy-to-navigate patient portal
  • Regular updates on social media platforms to increase patient awareness about the hospital
  • An email campaign software that allows sharing of updates to patients

Use artificial intelligence and virtual assistants

Virtual assistants understand the medical history, patient’s emotions and the complexity associated across their health journey. Automation technology should be integrated into the routine workflow.

AI helps the providers to track patient’s past history, potential medical complications and appointment preferences (remote or in-office visit). Thus, physicians equipped with the right information can create a patient-centric care plan, thereby empowering patients. Such an approach will ultimately enhance care delivery.

Data analytics provides knowledge about a patient’s overall healthcare journey. Patient experience can be improved once the satisfying moments and pain points are tracked through these tools.

Set up agile, cross-functional implementation squads

Implementation of an omnichannel engagement plan requires involvement and collaboration of key stakeholders. Based on the functions, capabilities and requirements the ideas should progress towards building a prototype.

 A winning strategy for an effective patient engagement depends on the cross-functional squad where new ideas, and techniques from several departments come into action. Such as people from the analytics, IT, sales, marketing and design groups play a crucial role in building new channels for patient journey.

An omnichannel transformation relies on the capabilities of the squad.

  • They design, develop, test, and organize the innovation according to its relevance.
  • Identify the barriers related to patient experience
  • Trigger change management processes
  • Scale-up the processes
  • Design the key performance indicators

To elaborate the importance of squads in setting the right channel for patient engagement here is an example. In case a new medical product is being launched then the healthcare company may engage with the healthcare professionals to build the product that fulfills their needs. Digital team may organize a webinar to demonstrate the product. Based on the feedback and inputs the design can be improved to develop a successful product.

Build an analytics engine to coordinate engagement across channels

With the expansion and increase in digital channels, companies are striving to reduce the complexity and develop softwares that augment user experience. To support this, digital companies are building advanced analytics engines for healthcare personnel and stakeholders. This will improve the productivity, and performance of their clinical and non-clinical operations.

Firstly, traditional techniques and data-management tools should be replaced with new analytics. A simple approach for new adopters is to monitor the past purchasing patterns. Next, integration of external and internal data sets should be done.

New insights can be implemented by mapping the internal data collected from healthcare providers and external data sets such as insurance claims. This will allow the healthcare companies to build a new framework depending on the physician’s needs and requirements.

Adoption of AI and algorithms

Artificial intelligence and machine learning data can be used in creating advanced applications. For example, AI analytics can evaluate the interaction history, and outcomes to simulate channels, and content that meets the expectations of a healthcare organization.

An engaging analytics engine is created step by step by the collaboration of data scientists, stakeholders, and staff members who implement their understanding of digital tools and its utility in routine practice

Digital team members can use simple descriptive analytics to determine the effectiveness of the hypothesis in the test field. This is followed by integrating additional data to improve the algorithms performance and finding new ways to enhance outputs.

Bringing The Value of Omnichannel to Healthcare Providers

An omnichannel healthcare strategy plays a significant role in enhancing patient outcomes, communication and healthcare journey. Omnichannel healthcare technologies act as a unified platform where providers can offer an engaging interaction to improve patient experience. Whether it is live chat, email, text messaging, or phone call, every channel aims to provide a seamless digital experience.

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