How Healthcare Systems Can Make It Easier To Access Their Services

In The News Aug 25, 2020

It is almost impossible to find a person that would gush about how amazing their Healthcare system’s apps and web-based platforms are from a user/patient perspective. While the world is becoming more app-based from basic needs like ordering groceries, ride services, and making reservations online, the healthcare field has stayed wittingly behind on these critical online services. Nothing showed how much of a loss that was more glaring than COVID-19 when the ‘old school’ options of doctors’ visits were no longer options for many patients.

Healthcare Plans Are Not Easy to Access

L. Jasmine Kim, Chief Marking and Branding Officer at Sutter Health, explained that in an internal study that was done regarding digital scheduling and online lab results, those 40-years-old-and-under engaged well with the tools, but for many people older and especially those who are medically compromised, many were confused about how to navigate online and access essential health care. “They are still used to making a call, so booking receptionists tell them what to do. It is really challenging for those brought up in an analog world alone to switch to digital scheduling, digital lab results, and bill pay. There is a lot of distrust around bill pay.”

And the healthcare systems/hospitals/clinics aren’t making it any easier. Many of the websites are not mobile-friendly, despite the fact that when accidents or emergencies arise, people usually aren’t sitting at a computer screen. Even though healthcare systems have often spent millions on these systems — they are legacy technology and haven’t been updated to run on modern software or to work across devices. Worse yet many of these companies do not announce that they only work on certain devices or software, so customers remain frustrated trying to access information that is impossible to obtain from their devices.

“There is nothing simple about health apps,” said Kim. And this can be frustrating especially for the older generation. What happens when they need help then? According to Kim, “Most of them end up calling our 1–800 number which costs us a fortune, but more importantly, causes delays and long wait times for much-needed care!”

Healthcare systems are already paying for customer service care, just using a system that is outdated. Why not update it?

The Healthcare System is Broken

“The healthcare system in America is broken, people can’t find bills, have records missing, and services are not integrated. It is really a good day when nothing goes awry. Many healthcare systems processes are about mitigating legal issues and adhering to regulations, and not about human-centered user/patient experience,” said Kim. Healthcare shouldn’t be about causing mental health frustrations, nor about mitigating problems. The focus should be on keeping people healthy and getting them access that is easy, trustworthy, and reliable.

Almost all of our most popular digital apps like Amazon, Airline bookings, Yelp, and Uber follow regular easy access guidelines like double-tapping and other simple navigation tools. Healthcare apps don’t use these and often freeze up or fail to work. So, lots of young people bypass them or opt for options that are more customer-friendly. It’s not useful to pay for a healthcare provider whose information you can’t access easy, where online scheduling and available appointments are hard to access, and where you can never find your bill or plan details.

According to TigerConnect’s 2019–2020 Survey on The State of Healthcare Communications, “The healthcare industry still heavily relies on 1970s communication technology, with 89% using fax machines and 39% using pagers among some departments or roles, or even organization-wide.”

Who has fax? Where do you even find one of those these days?

What Can The Healthcare Industry Do Now?

The obvious long term plan is to develop apps and platforms that work across devices, especially on mobile options, that provides access to critical information via a friendly user interface, fit for everyone from a 70-year-old with arthritis to a young working mother with two kids in tow who needs to know how long the wait is at the nearest urgent care so that they can fix her child’s broken finger. However, this takes time and there are some things these systems can do today.

  1. Assure the customer it’s not them, it is the Technology — Mitigate the expectations of customers, by clearly explaining upfront what they can and cannot do using the app or webpage. Don’t make them waste time looking for resources that aren’t there.
  2. Notify Customers with a Pop-Up Window of the Software and Devices the Apps Will Work On — Customers want to know how to access the information. Healthcare systems need to explain the limits of their technology so that customers aren’t frustrated. This can help to reduce expensive 1–800 calls by having some customers just switch devices or browsers.
  3. Teach Users How to Use Their Platforms and Apps — A one-page PDF and a Youtube video won’t cut it. Hire a service like GetSetUp to provide customized onboarding training to your consumers, especially the older ones who are struggling. Live interactive sessions, like those provided by GetSetUp by seniors and for seniors, help to teach customers how to use your app and page by getting their specific questions answered, so they can be empowered to keep using the platform, without needing to continually use the HELP line.

While we are all waiting for healthcare apps that work, at least with these tools we can navigate the resources available. It’s time that the healthcare industry moves into the modern era because with COVID-19 — telehealth and digital health are now the new normal.

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