A Better Digital Patient Experience Starts with Provider Search

As consumerism becomes more prominent in healthcare, the term “consumer” has become synonymous with, and in some places has replaced, the “patient.” Armed with this new perspective, health systems are searching for practical ways to improve consumers’ experience. It’s often best to begin at the beginning, so focusing on the first step of that journey – provider search and scheduling - is a natural place to begin. 

This topic was the subject of a webinar hosted by Phynd’s Peter White, Chairman and Chief Product Officer, and Keith Belton, VP of Marketing. The webinar highlighted rising consumer expectations of digital engagement, and how a health system can meet these needs through enhanced provider search on website and mobile devices. New technologies are now available for deployment to meet consumers’ rising digital expectations.

Rising Consumer (Digital) Expectations 

The webinar provided an overview of changing expectations for healthcare engagement.

An Accenture study revealed that nearly 70 percent of Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z and 58 percent of Baby Boomers, stated that the ability to book, change or cancel appointments online would increase the likelihood of choosing that provider.

The takeaway? Digitally engaging your patients with online, self-service tools is a requirement, influenced both by the availability of these workflows offered by consumer product vendors, and shifting demographics. As younger generations take over the bulk of the market for healthcare services, expanding digital experiences is a requirement.

Health systems have begun to respond by investing in new technologies to support digital healthcare. Nineteen in 20 (94%) healthcare CEOs are making technology investments to better the patient experience, and believe transformation efforts are successfully delivering returns on investments. However, despite these returns, 66 percent of providers feel that they are behind the curve on their digital health initiatives. The sense of urgency is growing.

Effective Provider Search: Key Requirements

There’s been a lot written writing about the importance of investing in a better ‘digital front door’ for a health systems to improve patient acquisition and retention.  In our view, the most important element of a health system’s digital front door is its Find a Doctor web page.

Searches on Find a Doctor websites often don’t produce accurate or relevant information.   Searching for ‘earache’ on one health system’s site listed diabetic nurse-practitioners as the first choice; typing in ‘chest pain’ brought up pediatricians on the same site.  

Phynd has worked with major health systems to help them successfully launch effective provider search on their individual digital front doors.  We have catalogued search-specific elements to have the right provider matched to the consumer’s needs. They include: 

1. The digitization of all care delivery assets for use by marketing and other teams. Care delivery assets include:

  • providers – physicians, nurse-practitioners, physician assistants, and other licensed providers,

  • the places where they work, which include hospitals, outpatient clinics and facilities, labs, imaging centers, surgicenters and other locations where medical treatment and services are delivered, and

  • both providers’ and specific places’ currently-accepted payment plans, including commercial health plans, the clinical networks, accountable care organizations, or other value-based networks in which they participate).

2. A digital platform to enroll, manage, report on, and support search of, these assets. Manage and search requirements to support better Find a Doctor websites include:

  • Data management. Continuous curation of data in digital profiles that consumer search relies on:

  • Each provider’s specialty and subspecialties, including clinical terms (tinnitus) and equivalent consumer-friendly terms (earache).

  • Providers’ places – as well as robust data about each place

  • Payment plans - health plans that each provider accepts, and networks in which each provider participates.

  • Each provider’s next 3-5 available scheduling slots

3. A powerful, fast, easy-to-use provider search capability that consumers and your staff can rely on (consumers rely on search but so too do staff to schedule appointments, register patients, coordinate care, and refer patients).

  • Search Experience. Aspects of a winning search experience includes: Consumer-friendly search – let consumers search on any of the above parameters via free-text, Google-like search that suggests terms as consumers begin to type them. Fast response - <100 millisecond response to each consumer’s search. Even a 2- or 3-second delay in response can quickly drive consumers elsewhere. On-line scheduling: present each provider’s next 3 to 5 available open slots, live in the EHR or scheduling system (not 24-hour-old data) for scheduling and confirmation.

  • Search Results Presentation Tools. Marketing teams need the ability to modify the display of providers to meet their individual health system needs, including: Weighting search parameters to display by priority attributes such as availability, health plan tiers, proximity, or network participation. Randomized display of providers. Consistently displaying different providers at the top of common searches ensures equal distribution of patients.

Phynd More Education Below…

Please keep your eye out for upcoming webinars:

Help Your Patients Phynd the Right Providers – Your Secret Weapon is…Taxonomy! May 30, 2019.  Co-sponsored with industry content leader Healthwise, we tackle the challenge of keeping providers correctly mapped to subspecialties and clinical and patient-friendly terms. Click on the above title to register.

Case Study: Building a Best in Class Find a Doctor Website. June 20, 2019.  An educational session delivered by a physician-digital leader on their journey to a better consumer search and scheduling experience.