In our next installation from the “What the market says you need in your patient portal” series we bring you avatars. These avatars are closely related to our last post on gamification and serious games, but their real value proposition is in what I like to call “high touch digital healthcare.” Many may think that “high touch” and “digital” cannot exist in the same concept, but oh they can. We are actually beginning to see that in some cases patients prefer high touch digital to face-to-face care.
Here are some examples:
- Patient Education: In the realm of patient education, we had a study that used digital avatars with human characteristics to help women through preconception health. In this case human interaction was not replaced. Rather, the avatar augmented and furthered the patient experience through the use of digital technology. The avatar asked initial questions and then triaged the more difficult interactions to clinicians. This allows clinicians to have more time to deal with complex issues. Add this to a patient portal and you begin to see how patient health concerns can be triaged remotely with the requisite education embedded throughout.
- Appointment Registration: I love that more and more healthcare organizations are making online pre-registration an option. Going even a step further many hospitals and ambulatory care centers are digitizing the in person appointment registration, which I mentioned in an earlier post of this series. Let’s add avatars to this process, which adds a “human” touch to an otherwise clinical process (pardon the pun).
- Patient Discharge: The discharge process is ripe for errors and omissions. All too many times patients arrive home without having absorbed the right data they need to maintain their health. The result is often costly readmission. Even a couple years back I was able to witness a demonstration of the use of avatars during the discharge process. Through an automated touch display, patients were able to navigate through their discharge instructions in an interactive way. The avatar even threw in fun questions like whether or not the patient preferred the Red Sox or Yankees (read: the hospital was in Boston). Patients provided rave reviews for their avatar led discharge experience. In fact, the experience was rated higher than in person discharge by a wide margin. Now, let’s add this functionality into the patient portal as well to continue that interaction remotely to ensure that those discharge instructions are followed. I’d suspect that you would see a marked improvement in readmissions rates simply because discharge instructions are adhered to.
Overall, avatars and other forms of digital high touch are a win-win-win. They are low cost (win), add a sense of fun to otherwise lackluster processes (win), and increase quality all at the same time (win). Stay tuned for our final posts in the series where we start to discuss the importance of health information exchange and interoperability as they relate to the patient portal.