In a fast-paced world of Uber car services and Amazon Prime, Healthcare is limping along.
Thanks to my health scare back in May, I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience a broad spectrum of our healthcare system first-hand. (I’m back to 100% now, thanks for asking.) From the smiling and caring RNs that helped me during the initial hospital stay, to the archaic process of transferring health records between specialists, my patient experience (Px) has spanned the emotions of appreciation and exasperation. I understand that you can’t change a $3 Trillion industry overnight, but we can do better. There is a lot of room for patient experience improvement – especially in communications.
This is a true story: Last month I needed to schedule a visit with one of my specialists and in visiting their web site, I found a “Schedule an Appointment” form. Submitting the form with a few suggested times in the “How can we help you” text box, my expectation was that I would get an email back with an appointment date/time. Oh, silly me and my expectations. What did I get? An email telling me to call their appointment line. I call, make a few IVR selections (English and choosing the specialist), then I sit in queue while being reminded that my call is important (but clearly not as important as their staffing levels) before talking to a young lady that can help me make an appointment. Since I had originally submitted the form, I asked her if she had seen my request – she had, but was too busy (Facepalm).
The healthcare industry is a prime opportunity for Px improvement and the communications industry does seem to be ready for the challenge. A $3 Trillion industry surely has funding for systems that improve efficiency and the patient experience.
Looking into the situation, I spent some time last week talking about the challenges in the healthcare industry with Garrett Smith, Principal at InboundMD. Garrett's company provides an all-in-one healthcare marketing service that helps independent practices with their on-line presence, web site, social media, and reputation management. Depending on the sophistication of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) system used by the practice, his team can integrate customer-friendly scheduling and information systems, simplifying the appointment and communications process. As Garrett and many of his team members came from the Voice over IP equipment business, they’ve seen first-hand how communications technologies impact business operations.
“The sky’s the limit, but there are some barriers holding back improvements in healthcare that other industries don’t have to deal with,” noted Garrett. “HIPPA compliance, the proprietary nature of the back-office systems, and interoperability with EHR systems are challenges.”
When asked about futuristic capabilities like click-to-call with WebRTC, Garrett smiled knowingly while pulling up a homepage of one of his clients, sporting a “Click to Call” banner that would connect a caller to the practice appointment desk. Based on WebRTC widget in the browser and a gateway service from a SIP Trunk provider, the click-to-call service simplifies the calling experience for compatible browsers.
However, click-to-call is only the start. It’s easy to envision a full video experience that would someday put doctors and patients in a face-to-face video call, possibly integrating health monitoring wearable technology. The challenge will be creating a patient experience that is compliant with the various privacy and records-keeping regulations and is simple enough to be used by the majority of patients.
I look forward to the future and improving patient experience, just as long as my video call doesn’t put me in queue and stream pharmaceutical advertisements.