Customer Experience and Design

Reducing Readmission by Connecting with Reluctant Patients

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How often do you visit your doctor? If you’re like most Americans, those visits do not happen very often. According to a Commonwealth Fund study the average American visits the doctor only four times a year and that number is decreasing. Compare that with other countries (Japan’s average is 13 times per year, while Germany’s is 9.7) and it’s clear that Americans avoid going to the doctor even when those visits can improve their health.

With an increased national focus on wellness, a visit to the doctor doesn’t just have to take place when we’re sick, but can be used for preventative measures. However, that doesn’t happen as often as it should. Even people who were previously hospitalized may hesitate to contact their doctor about a health concern. In fact, according to a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) report, 75% of hospital readmissions could be prevented if more patients interacted with their doctors after discharge. Furthermore, preventable readmissions are a big part of the unnecessary medical spending. Data from the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) estimates that preventable readmissions cost CMS $17 billion annually. Healthcare professionals are challenged to find a better way to connect with reluctant patients.

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With new laws, regulations, technologies and medicines, healthcare is changing daily. But one of the biggest changes is coming from the patients. Take millennials, for example. A ZocDoc survey found that more than 50% of respondents do not visit the doctor even once per year, and 93% said they do not go for preventative checkups. Instead, they are more likely to research their symptoms online, with 28% willing to selfdiagnose and 36% self-medicating before seeing a doctor. With access to online information – which may or not be reliable – millennials do not feel the urgency to visit the doctor, and 42% would cancel an appointment if they were too busy.

When patients only go to the doctor infrequently – primarily when they are sick or injured – healthcare professionals don’t have the opportunity to provide the in-depth care and counsel needed to look beyond the current health crisis and focus on increased wellness or early detection of chronic conditions.

Healthcare organizations must figure out a strategy to connect with patients and prospective patients outside of the doctor’s office by creating a connected health experience that is part of patients’ lives and ingrained in the patient journey.

But how do you do this when patients are spending less time in the doctor’s office? In their lifetime, they spend only about 1% in a clinical care setting. The other 99% of the time they are living, working, and playing. And that is where you need to engage with them and make sure they’re managing their wellness. Connected health looks at how to use technology to engage patients across geographies, anytime and anywhere. Some doctors’ offices provide portals that allow patients to communicate with their healthcare provider. But what about the people who are not on the portal? You need to find a more effective way to connect with these unknown consumers that you wish to convert into patients.

Ultimately, you want to create high-engagement across the entire patient digital experience. Connected health strategies and technologies are core to managing wellness and making populations healthy. And, by understanding individual patients, you can motivate and incentivize behaviors that are both healthful and cost-effective.

Learn more about how to provide a engaging connected health experience in our new guide.

About the Author

Kate Tuttle is a senior marketing professional with more than 13 years of marketing experience in both B2B and B2C environments. She has more than 7 years of healthcare industry experience and is passionate about technology and its impact on consumer experience.

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