When CMS reported about the massive explosion in Telehealth utilization within a month, one thing was clear. Healthcare consumers are making their voice heard. They want to access care on their terms, digital or in-person. At the clinic or at home. During early months in pandemic, it was all digital and now almost a year later about 20% virtual and remaining in physical in-person settings.

While consumers have found digital care to be more convenient, more accessible, and a more positive experience, they want the care delivery providers to not stop there. Digital-first omnichannel experience is increasingly a core expectation for consumers in healthcare. They want a frictionless, consistent experience, whether they communicate with providers online, in a clinic, on the phone, at home or anywhere else.

What is omnichannel experience?

Omnichannel is not multichannel. A multichannel experience means that a similar experience is delivered on multiple channels. Telehealth of today is mostly an example of multichannel. The same appointment->10 minutes meeting with physician-> prescription cycle. It is just given on a phone call.

Omnichannel on the other hand is about creating an integrated and cohesive healthcare experience no matter how or where a consumer reaches out.

Leading consumer focused companies like Uber, instacartand Starbucks have embraced omnichannel experience by default. Whether you are pre-ordering your coffee and picking it up from the nearest Starbucks location, ordering groceries or looking at the map how far your cab is and then sit in the car and trust blindly that your credit card was used to pay the right amount for the ride, you are witnessing a seamless, instantaneous, and user-friendly experience across multiple channels of consumer interaction and purchase. 

Back to reality

Now back to reality in healthcare. Our current fragmented system of care is designed around doctors, facilities and technology centers.

The consumers have to adapt to that unfriendly design when they are seeking care. If a clinic opens 5 days a week, from 9 -5 pm, they have to find a way to get an appointment, take time off work, find a caretaker for kids, drive to location, wait for 20 minutes, fill up a lot of paperwork to get 10 minutes for a service that you don’t know the price of, with a clinician who has to type data into the computer at the same time diagnosing and solving your issue.

Healthcare in America has become too complex, too uncaring and too expensive. People are getting lost in this system. Time and again, we hear piecemeal solutions presented by political leadership, only to see them disappear in complexity.

Times are changing. Consumers are front loading a lot of risk with high deductible plans. They are on the hook for first dollar coverage. They have started looking for accessible, affordable solutions outside of medical plans that can address their needs. Digital health providers have an opportunity to leapfrog from this horrid to great experience in a short(er) time.

A disciplined approach

To provide a great omnichannel experience that delivers superior outcomes, a disciplined approach is required. Start with the basics. First and foremost, it is important to focus on consumer, not plan sponsors or health systems. Who is the consumer and what do they want? That may sound overwhelming since there are so many demographic combinations to sort through. It may be helpful to do the consumer segmentation via personas. At every stage of journey consumers’ behavior usually coalesces around a few major variables. These variables grouped together can be used to design ‘personas’. Describing 5-6 major personas is usually enough to cover about 80 percent of the consumer base.

Second step is to meet them where they are. A journey-level approach can provide visibility and understanding of the personas’ different needs at each step. Follow the steps, both offline and online, that the each persona takes along a given journey.

What are we looking for in each step? We are looking for important (and often hidden) pain points that the persona encounters and the resulting areas of opportunity for redesign.

The idea is to make a list of which changes to make first, and gradually making an entire process simpler and more effective for consumers from beginning to end.

The overall goal of this whole exercise is to make people healthy. To achieve that goal, a feedback system is required. A feedback system can provide you insights into what changes are working and which ones are not having any impact of health outcomes. Using that information, you can determine the best course to take and make interventions quickly and decisively.

Take musculoskeletal (MSK) benefit solution that we specialize in.

In musculoskeletal care, a lot of modalities like imaging, chiropractic care, acupuncture, surgeries etc. are done in clinical settings. However there are a number of services like education, exercise therapy, behavioral health support that can be provided via digital medium much more effectively. For a consumer who is going through a surgical pathway, an experience that blends both digital and physical world can be transformative.

By no means are we suggesting that this approach is required for success. A digital health can stay focused on providing the best digital care experience for a specific condition and deliver high quality outcomes. That by itself is miles ahead of status quo. However from a consumer perspective that remains a point solution and requires an additional effort from them to bridge the digital physical divide.

As Millennials and Generation Z become dominant consumer groups, they have different expectations from the healthcare system than their predecessors. Their comfort level and familiarity with multiple digital channels including video, messaging and chatbots means care providers should consider digital-first omnichannel experiences to meet their expectations and effectively compete in the experience based healthcare economy of future.

Talk to us about how we can provide a seamless digital-first omnichannel experience to your employees and their family members for all of their pain management needs. In addition to musculoskeletal care, our cost-containment analytical tools and services can eliminate waste in your musculoskeletal spend to drive better financial outcomes.

Leading employers choose Sprite Health to provide their people quick access to on-demand virtual and physical musculoskeletal care for urgent and acute care, evidence-based care programs for chronic pain management, supported by our white-glove concierge service. This helps plan sponsors achieve better outcomes at lower cost – over 30% cost savings, reduction in unnecessary surgeries, opioid dependence, and absenteeism.

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