Digital transformation is a leading trend in the healthcare industry, as patients, care teams and administrators increasingly prioritize convenient, connected experiences that deliver empathy across the customer journey.
The healthcare industry has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, managing high volumes of patient interactions with new and constantly changing protocols. Alternative healthcare delivery methods, such as telemedicine, have become standard, providing reassuring in-person connections in a socially distanced world. According to Deloitte Insights, US consumer use of virtual visits rose from 15% in 2019 to 28% in April 2020. On average, 80% of consumers are likely to meet virtually with healthcare providers again, even post-pandemic, with most saying they’re satisfied with this type of care.
AI technology and data platforms facilitate a shift in care, empowering patients to take charge of their own health. Self-service portals now provide patients with personalized healthcare resources while chatbots automate insurance claim processes — all without the aid of a human representative. Healthcare practitioners also benefit from digitalization as they access global expertise remotely and have the diagnostic support of award-winning AI algorithms.
Together, these major trends in healthcare provide a new paradigm for service interaction that not only focuses on providing patient care but also on delivering a superior CX.
In April and May 2021, Genesys surveyed 2,629 consumers and 690 CX executives across Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, and North America about the state of customer experience. From the healthcare industry respondents, we learned three key insights.
1. Digital interactions are reshaping patient and provider experiences
Genesys Cloud CX™ data shows interaction volumes have grown significantly for healthcare companies during COVID-19. Comparing May-July 2021 with the same period in 2020, SMS and MMS interactions have tripled; call and email volumes have doubled; and social, web messaging and chat interactions have grown by more than 150%. One-third of healthcare leaders Genesys surveyed said managing increasing interaction volume and channel complexity are leading CX challenges for their organizations.
Voice and email are the leading customer interaction channels for healthcare businesses, according to the survey, followed by web chat, video calling and messaging. Video calling is slightly more prevalent in healthcare than in other industries, while chatbots are used less frequently.
When asked about the effectiveness of their channels in meeting customer or patient expectations, healthcare respondents are most confident about the voice channel, followed by email. Just a third consider their chatbots to be “highly effective” in meeting expectations. This mirrors the findings of the overall survey, and the feedback from consumers. One-quarter of consumers are highly satisfied with their chatbot experiences — the lowest satisfaction rating of all channels covered in the survey.
For all the focus on self-service, mobile apps and 24/7 out-of-hours availability, healthcare leaders can still do more to improve the patient experience. Less than one-third of healthcare executives said their company is significantly reducing efforts in the customer experience.
• 60% of healthcare leaders considered video calling to be highly effective in meeting patient/customer expectations
• 32% said their organization is significantly reducing effort in the patient/customer experience
• 33% considered managing volume growth and channel complexity a top three challenge in 2021
Focus on the customer journey: Consumers are increasingly turning to a wide array of digital channels for service. Email and voice top the list for frequency of use, but video calling, web chat, messaging platforms and mobile apps are gaining traction quickly. Healthcare providers need to move from digital adoption to satisfaction to benefit from efficiencies in their voice channel.
To further enhance the customer experience, conversational bots can use AI to gather intent and streamline CX processes. This can include leveraging the customer’s profile and prefilling forms or transferring data — demonstrating a level of understanding and relevance as the bot enters a conversation.
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Siemens Healthineers is a global healthcare technology company with 66,000 employees serving customers in every country worldwide. Its mission is to make healthcare more precise and affordable through cutting-edge technology, digitalization and patient centricity.
Siemens Healthineers customers are healthcare professionals. In the same way they’re using digital channels in their personal interactions, clinicians also seek channel options and convenience in the course of their work. While 90% of service interactions are still over the phone, there are an increasing number of services being provided online.
“It all started with the strategy we call From on-site to online. Under this vision we are digitalizing our existing processes and creating new digital native services,” said Jochen Hostalka, Senior Vice President IT for Customer and Enterprise Services.
One such service is WeScan. If a radiographer calls in sick, a hospital might need to reschedule up to 40 scans — negatively affecting the patient experience — and potentially health and well-being — causing delays in the patient journey and leading to a direct loss of revenue for the hospital. With WeScan, clinicians can access and book a certified specialist online to operate the hospital’s technology and perform the scans remotely. “By offering this service, the hospital does not need downtime and the patient can continue their diagnosis and therapy without a potentially impactful delay,” said Hostalka.
Siemens Healthineers also has a chatbot that provides clinicians in-the-moment support regarding medical devices and their operations. There are plans to increase the use cases for the bot, but in healthcare, creating digitalized self-service takes time. “Everything is serious in life sciences,” said Hostalka. “There cannot be a single risk.” Without human understanding and intuition, any content the bot provides must be bulletproof; that is, highly detailed, 100% accurate and leaving no room for interpretation.
The next phase involves expanding the universe of digitalization on three dimensions: reaching more countries and regions, developing new use cases and content domains, and connecting the platform with different technologies. For example, Siemens Healthineers has an eCommerce provision where healthcare providers can order spare parts, service contracts, and soon other online and digital services. In the future, the bot will become connected to that eCommerce system to provide a more seamless customer experience and create new opportunities for improving patient experiences, too.
2. AI, data and cloud are critical tools for healthcare providers
Like all industries, the healthcare sector recognizes the potential for data to generate significant ROI. The number one strategic initiative for healthcare companies in 2021 is using data and AI for customer understanding and personalization. As healthcare organizations seek to develop more connected end-to-end patient experiences, breaking down silos and gaining better data visibility will drive better health outcomes, decrease costs and increase profitability.
To ensure secure and reliable access to data, many organizations are turning to the cloud. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of CX leaders at healthcare companies cite better access to data across channels as the leading capability they’ve developed since moving to the cloud. Just over half (54%) cite enhanced reporting and analytics and 47% report increased security/disaster recovery/business continuity as other key benefits of cloud technology.
The survey shows that the healthcare industry’s focus on data and AI is much needed because personalization is lagging. About 35% of healthcare respondents said their organization delivers a highly personalized customer experience, compared to 44% of companies overall.
• 43% of healthcare leaders said using data and AI for customer understanding and personalization is a top priority for 2021
• 65% cited better access to data across channels as a leading benefit of moving to cloud
• 35% said their organization delivers a highly personalized customer experience today
Use technology to listen and understand: The best way for companies to provide empathetic customer experiences is to know their customers’ expectations, needs and preferences. This requires improving listening channels, whether it’s using digital engagement to understand intent, real-time sentiment analysis to adjust in the moment or AI across digital channels to gather insights. AI is similarly bolstering voice channels with natural language processing, speech to text and sentiment analysis. Companies are rewarded for providing personalization with greater loyalty, stronger advocacy and increased wallet share.
Independent HealthIndependent Health is a health insurance company in New York that serves nearly 380,000 members. Helping members navigate the complexity of the US healthcare system is a key priority in the company’s strategy to become patient-centric and deliver an outstanding customer experience. It’s one of the company’s strategic imperatives, said Daren Springer, Director, Business Information and Technology. While there are many different stakeholders that can affect the customer experience — doctors, hospital facilities or government entities — “We’ve realized, from the payor perspective, the industry needs to do a better job of controlling the experience to the degree that we can,” said Springer.
This strategy is leading Independent Health toward a business transformation, where service delivery will require the integration of several departments to deliver an “advanced care model.” “Payors are typically pretty siloed internally,” said Springer, adding that it doesn’t mean departments don’t work together; it’s more that members get transferred between departments as their patient journey progresses, depending on the nature of their condition.
And that’s set to change as organizations rethink the experience and customer handoffs. The advanced care model will involve bringing care and disease management, case management and utilization management into the contact center; “departments that typically don’t deliver a lot of direct member experience, but as these models shift, they’ll be expected to do more and more of that,” he added.
The experience is going to be more than just about touchpoints, noted Springer, with greater focus on proactive health and wellness, as well as navigating the US healthcare system. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s an important shift for how we continue to differentiate ourselves,” he said.
3. CX workforce management is a top challenge for healthcare
Staffing has been a huge issue for healthcare organizations during COVID-19. Beyond CX representatives managing their own personal situations during the pandemic, the uptick of interaction volumes and added stress have resulted in higher-than-average turnover. At the same time, the pandemic emphasized the critical role service interactions play in creating positive customer experiences. Today’s healthcare providers aren’t only expected to provide accurate medical information but they also must share these details with equal parts speed, security, accuracy and empathy.
Almost two-thirds (61%) of healthcare respondents reported the number of seats in their contact center has increased over the past year, and 71% said it will continue to grow in the year ahead. In line with that, workforce training and engagement is a top-three priority for a third of organizations.
As healthcare organizations look to build out features and capabilities to improve the patient/customer experience, 66% cited quality management and workforce optimization tools as being highly valuable.
• 61% of healthcare leaders will grow their CX headcount in 2021
• 66% considered quality management and workforce optimization tools as highly valuable for improving CX
• Three top CX challenges facing healthcare companies today relate to training and workforce engagement
Empower your representatives: Among the capabilities considered most valuable for improving customer experience are several that empower employees to provide better service. These include agent-assistance technology to provide knowledge and prompts with next-best actions in real time. Quality management and workforce optimization tools can also identify training needs, give staff deeper insights into their own performances and offload time-consuming administrative tasks.