Patients who come to healthcare facilities need and deserve a good experience. And, as a recent panel discussion I attended made clear, improving the patient experience demands a multi-faceted approach. Technology is a significant part of that approach, but it isn’t the sole solution.

The panel was part of the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Capital Health Tech Summit last month. It featured speakers from government and industry offering some intriguing examples of technology enabling a better patient experience. On the panel were representatives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), b.well Connected Health, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (MGUH) and CGI.

The first step to improve the patient experience is to understand just what a positive patient experience is. It often begins well before a patient enters a health facility. Panelist Jon Booth, Director of CMS’s Web and New Media Group, talked about a New Coverage Wizard they built to help new Medicare recipients determine the kind of coverage they need. Previously, these patients would have to sort through options such as Medicare or Medicare Advantage—with or without prescription drug coverage—by reading articles and figuring out what parameters applied to them. Now, they answer 10 questions about their lives and circumstances and receive a personalized coverage recommendation.

Significantly, Booth, noted, CMS was able to provide this service without adding volumes of new content, just new paths through the existing content and a light-weight open source technology stack to better tailor the user experience.

Panelist Raymond Sczudlo, General Counsel at b.well and former Executive Vice President of the Children’s National Medical Center, said the ideal patient experience has three simple perspectives:

  1. Don’t hurt me.
  2. Heal me.
  3. Be nice to me.

Making those principles practical takes many shapes. Shirley McElhatton, Director of Patient Service Excellence at MGUH, said their doctors are required to sit with their patients for at least five minutes during daily rounds. Sitting at eye level with the patient gives them a greater sense of ease and deepens the patient-clinician relationship.

The human touch can go a long way. MGUH, which is undergoing a renovation, has enlisted 200 volunteer “wayfinders” to help patients find their destinations as the layout of the facility changes. While many emerging technologies are planned as part of the new construction, the human touch is what patients need right now.

Despite these examples, healthcare organizations have some ground to cover. As Kim Radefeld in CGI’s life sciences practice observed, the American healthcare system often makes the patient experience unnecessarily difficult. “We must continually work together to make the patient experience as positive as possible,” she said.

Whether in the private sector or the federal sector—such as CMS, the Veterans Health Administration or the Military Health System—many organizations have made significant strides with real impacts on those needing care. 

But just having programs isn’t enough. They also have to be available, accessible and continually transforming. As an example, CGI has been working with CMS since 1999 to develop and evolve the agency’s web presence from static, separate pages into an interactive set of interconnected portals.

As Kim Radefeld says, we’ve become prone to calling patients “consumers” within the healthcare ecosystem—which they are. Accordingly, their expectations for things such as immediate online access to information, self-service portals and mobile apps are increasing. Now it’s up to providers, payers, government and their technology partners to deliver on those expectations.

I invite you to learn more about CGI’s work in the healthcare industry.

About this author

Picture of John P. George

John P. George

Director, U.S. Industry Solutions Group

John’s work is centered on the healthcare industry. He serves as chairman of CGI’s North American Health Industry Community, where he assists in unifying all facets of CGI’s diverse health businesses and architecting a variety of IT and business solutions. With more than 25 years ...

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