Digitising The Patient Experience Will Lead To More Efficiencies And Cost Savings (Lesson 4)

Many clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare providers have automated check-in kiosks in their foyers and waiting rooms. These machines help take the load off the reception staff and digitise the experience so that it’s both faster and easier to manage.

Except that it’s not.

When a patient comes to a clinic, hospital, or other healthcare provider, they are often looking for a friendly face. It is natural to desire the reassurance that a kind word or a warm smile brings when you need help with an issue related to your health.

The Answer Is No

The impersonal nature of the kiosk robs the patient of that human connection, not to mention its function can be quite limited.

Do you need to update your address? You’ll need to wait for the receptionist. Have you got a question about something? You’ll need to wait for the receptionist. Are you checking in a child? You’ll need to wait for the receptionist. Have you got a disability? You’ll need to wait for the receptionist.

All of a sudden, this kiosk that helps to streamline service through digitisation starts to show how limited it is. Not only that, but it fuels the belief that, by introducing this new technology, you can strip back staff.

After all, the automated check-in kiosk is supposed to take care of everyone’s needs. The reality is that the people have to wait for long periods of time if they have anything that is unable to be accommodated by the kiosk. Unfortunately, there are many things that fall into this bracket.

Add to this the fact that incorporating all of these digital elements into your organisation requires a team of people to ensure they are functioning correctly. Suddenly, the idea that you can save time and money is blown out of the water. You are simply replacing one kind of employee with another.

Assumption Is The Mother Of All Mistakes

The assumption is that digital saves time, money and energy. There are circumstances and situations when that’s going to be the case and where digital does achieve those things for you. There is no doubt that adding digital can streamline your processes.

Digital is not inherently a bad thing. However, it may become a bad thing if it’s done with the wrong frame.

If you’re looking at digital within the frame of improving the business, instead of improving the customer experience, then it will always be bad. This is because you will be making assumptions about what the customer wants, rather than finding out what the customer wants.

This assumption is what leads you down the garden path. The thinking is that you will be making things easier for the customer. But it’s not actually about making things easier for the customer. That’s just a story people tell themselves to get their idea across the line from a project approval perspective or a budget perspective.

Think of it like this: You digitise a particular service because you can see there will be savings if you take the customer base and move it into a single channel. The problem is that you haven’t actually understood the impact of this decision on your patients.

Your patients want to interact with your company in the way in which they want to interact with it. You are forcing them to change their behaviour in order to fit the way you want to provide the service.

Case Study: Appy Days?
I did some work for a large Australian law firm several years ago. In their customer focus group, they were looking for feedback on an app they were developing to streamline their customer communications. My work was to help get an insight as to how customers might interact with the app they had been developing.

After going through all of the work, we discovered that customers were already happy with the way in which they engaged lawyers. They either walked in and met the lawyer face-to-face, picked up the phone, sent an email, or communicated by fax.

This meant that the app was not needed because it was not wanted. At its peak, the app received only a six percent acceptance rate amongst the law firm’s clients.

Healthcare is no different. Patients looking for help know the routes by which they feel comfortable getting that help. Anything that you put in the way of them taking that route is considered a barrier to service.

Making assumptions about what the customer wants means that it is so easy to get digital wrong. When you are introducing new ways of doing things, you always need to take the time to find out whether it is relevant. There is no point in just deciding that it’s going to be better.

Before you make any decisions about changing the way you deliver your service, you need to ensure you are aware of your patient’s needs. If you don’t have this basic level of information, then the chance that you will fail to improve their experience is extremely high. And in many cases, you may make the experience significantly worse.