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Most healthcare C-suite executives say improving the consumer experience is a top priority for 2019

Most respondents said they want to prioritize the consumer experience, especially those in highly competitive markets.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The consumer experience is a growing priority for healthcare executives, and is top-of-mind for many as they look ahead to the rest of 2019, finds a new survey from Sage Growth Partners and Docent Health.

In fact, 69% of respondents said improving the healthcare consumer experience is their organization's first or second top strategic priority for 2019.

Respondents from highly competitive markets were more likely to say it is a top priority, with 55% making that claim. Only 2 percent of respondents in highly competitive markets said it isn't among their top four priorities.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

To improve the consumer experience, organizations are using an array of technology, including telephone calls (93%), EHRs (90%) and patient portals (83%).

Only 35% report using a centralized customer relationship management platform, and just 39% report using text messaging. Seventy percent say they have implemented additional staff and physician training to help them better interact with patients.

Thirty-two percent have a dedicated C-suite executive, such as a chief experience officer,  whose sole role is improving the healthcare consumer experience.

Meanwhile, patient navigation programs are used by more than half of respondents (57%). This is much higher among those who said the healthcare consumer experience is a top 2019 strategic priority (69%).

Such navigation programs can have significant benefits, at least according to the respondents. The top benefits include improved quality outcomes (67% cited this benefit), improved patient engagement (67%), improved patient adherence to care plans (65%), and improved patient retention (54%).

The top three service lines in which respondents are using patient navigation programs are oncology (68%), orthopedics (53%) and cardiology (42%).

Though 43 percent of respondents do not yet have a patient engagement program, a third of them plan to implement one in the next one to two years. The top ranked reasons why organizations are considering a patient navigation program include improving patient engagement, improving patient adherence to care plans, reducing unnecessary utilization and readmissions, and improving patient retention.

THE LARGER TREND

Most will acknowledge that the age of the consumer has arrived in healthcare, but what does that mean, exactly?

For providers, it means they need to start offering convenience, whether it be in the form of telehealth, retail clinics or online bill pay options. And the push to offer these bells and whistles may intensify in the wake of new findings from NRC Health and CHRISTUS Health: Convenience is now the No. 1 factor that influences which provider a consumer will select for their care.

Traditionally, things like referrals and insurance coverage were the main selection criteria for patients, but times have changed. While those factors are still very important, the patient of the modern age wants care when they want it and how they want it -- and they're not shy about shopping around.

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com