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Healthcare makes its move to improve patient experience.

Sometimes late bloomers have an advantage. While early adopters get all the hype, it’s the late bloomers who watch and learn, optimizing strategies in the wake of others’ mistakes. It’s no secret the healthcare industry has lagged other verticals such as financial services or travel and hospitality when it comes to digital transformation. Because healthcare is so highly regulated and fragmented, transformation — especially around sensitive data — has taken longer. After all, a data misstep in retail doesn’t have the same consequence as one related to our personal health. 

But a recent survey of over 500 healthcare executives by Econsultancy shows that the healthcare industry has a newfound sense of urgency to create a consistent and personal patient experience that spans both offline and online worlds, no matter what device or channel they’re using. In an era of consumer choice and greater transparency, a compelling customer experience will be the primary competitive advantage — especially in healthcare. Digital technology has the potential to create more personal and meaningful healthcare experiences than ever before, but only if the technology platform can properly enable — and protect — those connections.

Patients to the front.

Everyone wants better health outcomes and personal healthcare experiences. But today, most healthcare providers lack seamless integration between core systems, leading to patient experiences that can be sterile, uneven, and impersonal — a far cry from what we expect from our most personal providers. Just think about how many times we are asked to fill out the same information on paper forms. It’s as if they don’t know us at all. 

In Econsultancy’s “2017 Digital Trends in Healthcare and Pharma” report, the results were clear — the shift of control from healthcare companies to the consumer is forcing the industry into a customer-first mindset where supporting multiple devices and channels is paramount. Optimizing the journey across multiple touchpoints is one of the most important priorities for 74 percent of healthcare and pharma respondents over the next year.

Digital marketing priorities in healthcare.

Proportion of company respondents in healthcare and pharma saying these will be “very important” for their digital marketing over the next few years.

Digital marketing priorities graph in healthcare.


Healthcare companies also realize they will gain — or lose — competitive advantage based on the strengths of their customer experiences. Customer experience is the top strategic priority for virtually all healthcare and pharma companies surveyed (93%), and “optimizing the customer experience” is perceived to be the most exciting opportunity by just over a fifth (22%). Importantly, healthcare companies are ranking customer experience, by a large margin, as the primary way they will compete.

How healthcare companies will compete.

Organizations identified the primary way in which they will seek to differentiate themselves from competitors over the next five years.

Customer experience

40% and 24%

Customer experience

21% and 22%

Product / service innovation

18% and 17%

Product / service innovation

11% and 20%

Organizations with annual revenues of less than $195m

Organizations with annual revenues of more than $195m

The healthcare industry is changing.

Health care changing with provider information, limited functionality, physical and digital works and fee-per-service model.


Five steps to a connected healthcare experience.

Nurse pushing patient on cart.


As healthcare moves toward more connected and unified experiences, there are specific actions you can take now to speed digital transformation within your own organization. 

1. See the patient as a person, not a device or system, so you can understand their behavior and communicate with them across multiple touchpoints. 

According to Forrester, 60 percent of millennials and 52 percent of other age groups expect more personalization from their healthcare insurers. In the past, most healthcare companies had one or two systems for patient information — in person and on the phone. Now that consumers use digital channels to interact, learn, and receive treatment, providers need an experience platform that can track their actions across all channels — offline and on. Integration with call center and in-person facility systems is key for crafting a complete view of your patient.

Kaiser Permanente, both an insurer and healthcare provider, has invested in an experience platform that drives this sort of personalization to its over 11 million members. By taking a mobile-first approach, they have begun to reimagine member experiences from the patient perspective and support multiple devices and channels. Their new member portal moves away from a generic navigation approach to more personalized options, based on the latest actions, appointments, or conditions of that specific member.


Last year, 52 percent of Kaiser’s 110 million patient interactions were done via smartphone, video conferencing, kiosks, and other technology tools.

Source: Fortune Magazine

2. Deliver a consistent experience across all devices, both on digital and physical customer journeys. 

Sixty-seven percent of U.S. adults switch between multiple screens during any one digital activity, according to market research by GfK. Patients are using mobile devices to connect with providers, gain information, and take a more direct role in managing their healthcare.


61 percent of Kaiser Medical’s digital traffic comes from mobile devices.

Source: 2017 Adobe Summit Presentation

Many organizations jumped into powering connections with patients by focusing on one device, perhaps with a mobile app. These teams and technologies were usually siloed from existing solutions or teams. When individual point solutions are implemented in this way, a single user too often appears as a separate customer when they switch devices. This makes personalization impossible, and it contributes to jagged experiences for the patient. 

Centralized content authoring is key for driving cross-device engagement. The goal is to build once, deploy and access everywhere. Patients don’t want to be forced to log into your website to schedule an appointment or email their doctor. They expect everything to work on their phone, on their tablet, or in your app — securely.

3. Integrate data into one unified system so you gain insight across all touchpoints and deliver personal content to your patients. 

The potential of wearables and other monitoring devices to improve health outcomes is huge — but only if your system can integrate the data into the patient’s record within an analytical framework. Data is just noise if you can’t find the proper context and take action on that data. Imagine the results from a blood pressure monitor used daily at home that would automatically trigger an alert to both doctor and patient when a threshold is reached. 

A unified digital platform must have open APIs and SDKs that allow providers to support and integrate with devices used both now and in the future. And most importantly, it must be able to import patient data into an actionable and analyzable system where campaigns can be triggered, segments can be created, and communication and actions can be launched.

In a Harrow clinic in England, a remote monitoring program wirelessly linked with a team of nurses achieved great results in managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Over three months the program achieved.

50 percent drop in hospital admissions

50 percent drop in hospital admissions

66 percent drop in hospital bed days

66 percent drop in hospital bed days

Source: Raconteur

20 percent cost savings

20 percent cost savings

4. Speed production, approval, and delivery of content across devices.

A unified digital platform helps marketers deliver personalized content across multiple channels, touchpoints, and devices — by introducing a new level of velocity to the creation, management, delivery, and measurement of digital content and experiences. When the system routes automatically for approval instead of manual emails and can optimize for devices on its own, your staff can concentrate on creating more content. Especially in regulated industries like healthcare, it’s key to have a central place for approval and dissemination, so that the system helps you make sure your staff is going through the right steps before anything is published. If a regulatory agency changes a rule or an approval, the provider can edit or remove content across all platforms quickly. 

For a specific example, we turn to Kaiser Medical. Just a short time ago, their website wasn’t responsive, and when members accessed it via a phone or tablet, the content was not personalized or easily read across devices. It wasn’t sustainable to have content teams creating and deploying for separate platforms. By implementing a central experience platform, they’re now able to personalize their website for each user with the right content optimized for the right device. The new marketing system also enables them to keep up with the ever-increasing demands for more content, without expanding budgets.

"Connecting patients to information, advice, and support…can help move from the patient being a passive recipient of care to one where they are actively engaged in their own care.”

— Deloitte Center for Health Solutions

5. Construct a secure framework that builds patient trust. 

The risks of running personalization campaigns incorrectly are far-reaching — from using the wrong patient’s information in front of a customer to an actual injury or death that springs from misuse caused by mislabeled or outdated content. Managing the risks digitally through an integrated digital foundation — increasing efficiencies and minimizing opportunities for error — is a key aspect of any digital transformation. 

A modern platform will ensure that once a patient provides protected health information (PHI), that data may be anonymized for analytical and tracking purposes, but still attached to an individual identity to ensure accurate content delivery for diagnoses, provider selection, treatment options, appointment setting, drug purchases, and more.


In 2014 and 2015, members used Kaiser’s digital healthcare management program to do the following:

 Send 20 million emails to doctors and other care providers.

Send 20 million emails to doctors and other care providers.

View 37 million test results online.

View 37 million test results online.

 Refill 17 million prescriptions online.

Refill 17 million prescriptions online.

 Schedule 4 million appointments online

Schedule 4 million appointments online


Source: Digital Commerce 360

Taking connection to eleven.

Nurse using tablet.

Healthcare companies are fully embracing the present imperatives of customer experience and connection with patients wherever they are, but they are also designing a foundation that will take them into the future of medicine. The Econsultancy survey found that healthcare executives are preparing to reach prospects and users with new devices. Thirty-one percent find connective devices like wearables the most exciting prospect for the future.

Twenty-six percent are excited about engaging audiences through virtual or augmented reality. These platforms could extend telemedicine, already a powerful way to give access to more patients, and create an even deeper and more personal connection between patient and provider. Instead of time spent repeating information or traveling to in-person locations, we will be able to connect directly to those with the power to heal.

The future of digital healthcare.

Healthcare executives ranked what they regarded as the most exciting prospect for 2020.

Healthcare executives ranked internet of things as the most exciting prospect for 2020.

Start experimenting now as you implement your digital foundation with an eye to the future — and focused firmly on the patient and their experience. Ask your partners questions about extensibility and security, and how they see the industry evolving. If they don’t have something to teach you, look for another partner. As you implement a unified digital foundation, also keep an eye on your organizational structure. As patient experiences become paramount, it’s likely your internal structures will need to be recast around the patient, instead of around technology or platforms (like mobile). 

But most importantly, begin the process today. Late bloomers have their advantages, but only if they ultimately learn from others’ missteps and act with urgency.

“Connected Health,” Deloitte Center for Health Solutions,

“Digital Intelligence Briefing: 2017 Digital Trends in Healthcare and Pharma,” Econsultancy, 2017. 

“How Health Devices Bring NHS Care into the Home,” Raconteur,

Kia Kokalitcheva, “More Than Half of Kaiser Permanente’s Patient Visits are Done Virtually,” Fortune Magazine,

Mark Brohan, “Kaiser Lays a Foundation for More Mobile Doctor Visits,” Digital Commerce 360,

Olly Robinson, “Finding Simplicity in a Multi-Device World,” GfK,

“The Unified Customer Experience Imperative,” Adobe,