The digital patient experience – three common mistakes and five best practices

The global Covid19 pandemic has forced teleworking into our lives; a possibility that already existed 10 years ago, but that was never fully exploited. The same happened with digital medicine. Blua, the online medical healthcare service of the insurer Sanitas had always difficulties to gain acceptance. At IEXP we work patient centered digital technology and use intensively big data and other technologies. This is why we know well the high technological failure rates; its causes and how high patient acceptance can be generated.

Gurus and experts affirm that online medical consultations and other aspects of telemedicine have arrived to stay here. But before we are caught by technological determinism it is important to check the data in order to understand why implementation of digital health is far away from being optimal.

Why? Because some day we will return to normal and the reasons for low digital healthcare acceptance will remain there. We need our systems to be as patient friendly as possible. This does not only men that the experience es excellent as it is in Amazon: it is good to remember that healthcare is not consumption (even in the private sector) and that many more factors are important besides attention, usability, generate positive motions or produce anxiety by usined likes. While marketing plays with wishes that are endless, healthcare has to do with needs, which are few and more difficult to satisfy.

If we are aware of the patient experience and its context with the disease and technology, we will gather patient acceptance and, we will obtain quality data. Because experience is information for change.

Three common errors
When designing and implementing digital healthcare services, the most common errors are, not to understand the context, use predefined patient journeys and not using information in order to transform patient experience and empower patients.

Context: normally we design systems from a functional perspective. That means, from the engineer’s or informatician’s point of view. For instance, if you look in Spain for an eye clinic in internet, you will find that most of them are not designed for people with eye problems, with the exception of Clínica Baviera. Si you look for fertility clinics, many of them have pictures of babies and happy families on their sites. Something most women with fertility problems reject -especially if they went through several attempts. Your web or your digital healthcare system does consider family members and care givers?  A good guide for patient centered design can be found in this article by Molina Recio et al on design of mobile health applications.

Predefined patient journeys: when we work with pharmaceutical companies, the first thing they do is to show us proudly the map of the pathology and then they tell us: “we don not need to make patient journeys, we have them”. When we ask if patients participated, in many cases the answer is negative. What kind of patient experience journey does not include patient experiences? When we work with technology or medical devices companies there are not even journeys, but instead functional designs of paths patients must follow when using the technology. The journey itself is not important; it is a visual way to represent patient knowledge. Did we listen patients? Do we have tools for capturing patient experience in a systematic way? This quantitative study is a good example on how to bring in patient experience to a tele health system for chronic disease management.

Transform the patient experience and empower patients: if our telemedicine system just mirrors offline traditional processes, we will not only have a higher technology failure rate. Worts: we will lose valuable information and the opportunity to transform the experience of patients. Also, the opportunity of empowering patients so that he can self-manage his disease. We might lose thus the opportunity to improve effectivity and efficiency. Effectivity: most events DO NOT happen in hospitals and self-management easies the handling of situations. Efficiency: the more self-management the less use of resources. A good empowerment example was already described in this blog. It was the case of David Festenstein, who created an app for stroke recovery based on his own experience. Another inspiring example is the empowerment of patients with sinusitis with a coaching app.

Five best practices
In order to achieve acceptance of our digital healthcare system and an excellent patient experience there are five best practices.

  1. Human mindset: when we talk about technology it is important not to lose human perspective. On the other side of our system there are individuals with fear, expectations, hope, pain and oppression. We often forget this.
  1. Personal relationships: technology should not replace but reinforce personal relationships. We are social animals with emotional needs, especially when it comes to health. When patients present anxiety and need security, do they get quick response and is there somebody to listen them?
  1. Combine artificial and emotional intelligence: the key to an excellent digital patient experience is to combine artificial intelligence with emotional intelligence. Therefore, we must get insights from experience before data. Insights provide knowledge, data provides information. For instance, when a chatbot talks to users, the moments have to be human and treatment like we treat guests at home. If users feel a machine is talking to them, they will leave. This is about creating moments of human quality that reduce stress and produce trust.
  1. Measure important things: there are many metrics about technology use. Conversion, ratios, etc. Of course, they are important. But in digital healthcare we should try to include ePROMS an ePREMs where the are applicable in order to understand changes in health, quality of life, habits that experience our patients.
  1. Certify that our system is patient centered: in a time where healthcare centers go massively digital, accreditation is a quick differentiation factor. More information about that in another post.





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