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Created

May 27, 2011

Use IT or Lose IT: Impacting Healthcare with Customer Experience

Buy low, sell high
Possession is nine tenths of the law
Location. Location. Location.

These are timeless mantras with universal appeal that require no further explanation. Yet, with moderate accuracy, they tend to simplify and define the fundamentals of otherwise very complicated industries.

Similarly, in my opinion, the rapidly evolving role of IT throughout today’s healthcare ecosystem may be summed up in two words. Experience matters.

But don’t just take my word for it. Time and again research has shown that, among diverse healthcare stakeholders, a major determining factor of technology adoption is customer experience. And you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to understand that, regardless of how ground-breaking it may be, the success of any new product or solution hinges on the assumption that people will actually use it. Otherwise, it is useless.

 

During a recent interview for Focus Washington’s “Tech View”, I was asked about some of the financial “incentives for innovation” in healthcare resulting from the HITECH Act and the Health Reform legislation passed last year, as well as the role that customer experience plays in successfully bringing these innovations to market and beyond.

 

 

As a result of “Meaningful Use,” or that set of implementation criteria for electronic health records (EHRs) that determines eligibility for CMS incentive programs, providers are now expected to do more with their patients’ EHRs. In the long run, this will likely improve clinical workflow efficiencies and quality of care. Meanwhile, however, providers are demanding that these systems provide a higher level of functionality, usability, and overall customer experience.

To that end, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) is working with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to develop guidelines that measure usability for EHRs and other Health IT systems.

“All too often we hear from providers that they look forward to the day when the technology works for them instead of them working for the technology,” said Farzad Mostashari, MD, national coordinator for health information technology at ONC.

Health plans are learning the same lessons about customer experience in the payer segment. A recent report by Forrester (Best and Worst of Website User Experience, 2011: Health Insurers) evaluated the websites of seven leading health plans. Despite improved functional capabilities of some health insurers’ web presence, as they seek to leverage the power of social brand engagement, the report found that no insurer achieved a passing score; and in fact all had significant shortcomings in key areas.

That’s not to say that these companies aren’t adequately servicing their customers or generating year-over-year revenue growth. Instead, it unveils the alarming trend of a sizable missed opportunity for differentiation and brand loyalty in an uber-competitive market with low member switching costs. And in that case, the byproduct of an optimized customer experience can certainly be measured throughout the enterprise; but particularly in the bottom line.

In the end, it behooves any healthcare organization to protect their investments in technology by deploying solutions that were developed with the customer experience as a key focus. There, after all, is where the rubber meets the road. And how fast is an expensive turbo-charged sports car if all its tires are flat?

Do you have a mantra for Health IT or customer experience (or anything)? Reply to this posting in Comments and on Twitter @AdobeGov and @AdobeCEM to be heard.