Believe it or not, most of what patients want most from their healthcare provider doesn’t have a big price tag or super-deluxe clinical credentials. In the future, a sleek new doctor’s office and warm environment would likely be appreciated. But patient surveys and focus groups aren’t looking for fresh architectural design.
The future doctor’s office is about superior patient experience, and things that are possible to deliver today. Patients put the greatest value on intangible and emotional touch points—plus a few convenient touches via everyday technology. For the most part, the things patients value most in healthcare delivery are free or low cost. That isn’t to say that breaking with tradition, long-standing routines and provider-centric systems will be easy.
Patients expect the convenience of technology…
There’s a dichotomy between the traditional paper-centric doctor’s office and the digital-centric life of many patients. Hospitals and medical offices are slowly creeping up the technology adoption curve, while the average American patient already owns and uses two or three digital devices.
The doctor’s office of the future will close this gap to meet or exceed patient expectations. According to a Harris Poll for Salesforce, nearly 60 percent of all insured patients and the majority (70 percent) of Millennials (ages 18 to 34), would select a primary provider where they can interact online. They want to use technology to communicate with the office, see and pay bills, request prescriptions, make appointments and view their health information.
Nearly everyone has a smartphone in their pocket and/or a mobile device within easy reach. While people value face-to-face encounters, Millennials particularly value digital communications including portals, email and text. What’s more, the Millennial generation has never been without computers and the Internet and are open to new and convenient aids in healthcare delivery.
In addition to selecting providers on technology integration, many patients are open to the convenience of ‘care from anywhere’ options, virtual visits, tracking software, mobile apps and wearable devices now and in the future, according to the Harris Poll.
The office of the future will provide convenience by way of greater access to care. To the patient with a retail mindset, this means same-day or next-day appointment, a wider range of office hours, early morning, evening and/or weekend options.
Feelings and the future doctor’s office…
Here are some of the benefits that patients want the most. How many of these things on this checklist do you currently provide? How many attributes of the doctor’s office of the future can you embrace immediately and deliver today? Many of these elements overlap:
Eliminate the waiting. Among Cleveland Clinic patients surveyed, nearly 50 percent find it aggravating to wait at the doctor’s office. Waiting—to see the doctor or to make the appointment—is a universal complaint. Some patients would settle for LESS wait time, but the ideal office of the future has none. A patient’s time is valuable and “going to the doctor” is a disruption. But it’s the aggravation that erodes patient satisfaction.
More time with the doctor. Patients who wait long or are suddenly rushed feel that the doctor and the office are either indifferent or incompetent or both. Conversely, a feeling of not being rushed—having adequate face time with the doctor—communicates empathy and concern. It is also the foundation of good communications and the doctor-patient relationship.
Demonstrate understanding and compassion. As a rule, doctors are caring and concerned about their patients. But they are also problem-solvers. Patients appreciate the healthcare solutions, but they want good clinical care wrapped in empathy and compassion. Better than 80 percent of survey respondents want to find evidence of respect and caring in relatively simple things like:
- Healthcare decisions are a patient-doctor partnership
- Listening attentively to patient concerns and issues
- Making eye contact, smiling, addressing the patient by name
- Making two-way communications and understanding a priority
The ordinary retail world has shaped consumer expectations in healthcare as never before. But building the doctor’s office of the future is possible today. In fact, these are fundamental and nearly universal expectations for any medical practice. In hospitals, health systems, medical groups and provider practices, patient experience and patient satisfaction are the foundation of success.