From In-Person To Virtual Care And Everything In-Between: Omnichannel Healthcare Is Here

By Zach Markin, CEO and co-founder of HTD Health

Omnichannel healthcare refers to care delivered seamlessly through multiple modes: in-person, digital, and everything in between. The term evolved in the consumer product and tech space, but has come to define a more whole-person healthcare experience where care is coordinated and continuous across each patient touchpoint.

The omnichannel strategy in healthcare prioritizes a seamless user experience by employing and connecting all consumer touchpoints—in-person consults, lab visits, telehealth appointments, text-based chat with a nurse, virtual care planning, medication reminders, data from a connected device, and so on. This comes as a progression from single channel and multichannel strategies.

The key difference between multichannel and omnichannel healthcare is the focus on care continuity and patient experience in the latter. Multichannel approaches are focused on increasing the number of (often siloed) avenues through which to engage customers, including through websites, mobile apps, messaging platforms, phone calls, and in-person. Evolving a step further, the omnichannel strategy builds upon these numerous touchpoints and ties them together to create a smooth experience where information is shared across care team members.

Trends paving the way for omnichannel care

There are a few key trends that have set up the healthcare industry to embrace omnichannel care. These include:

  • The digital disruption of hospitals and health systems
  • The rapid embrace of telehealth brought about by the COVID pandemic
  • The slow march toward value-based care
  • The rise of healthcare consumerism
  • Healthcare personalization: Putting the patient at the center

An omnichannel patient experience in practice

In healthcare, an omnichannel strategy means providing personalized, coordinated care and communication across the entire patient journey. It includes delivering multiple modes of care (“omni-modal” care delivery), and engaging patients across multiple channels or touchpoints according to their preferences and needs.

The patient journey is a partnership between the patient, their healthcare provider, and their support system to create a positive environment that aligns with the patient’s needs and preferences. It builds collaboration and trust between patient and provider and recognizes that the one constant in a patient’s healthcare journey is the patient themselves. Patients are informed and empowered by their care team to be drivers of their health decision-making.

Patient-centric healthcare helps to improve patient engagement and satisfaction, which reduces the likelihood that patients switch providers, ultimately leading to continuity of care.

Omnichannel care ensures that patient needs are met at each touchpoint through whichever treatment modality is appropriate. Healthcare companies that offer personalized services to meet needs of a diverse patient population are most successful and this means meeting patients wherever they are—whether in-person in an exam room, on a landline phone, messaging via SMS, or in a dedicated digital application.

Three essentials for implementing omnichannel healthcare

An omnichannel strategy involves both the modes through which providers deliver care—often termed “multi-modal” care delivery—plus the touchpoints or channels through which patients engage with their health, which may or may not include direct communication with their doctor.

There are three keys to implementing an omnichannel strategy in healthcare:

  1. Integration
  2. Personalization
  3. Automation

Omnichannel approaches help providers

Omnichannel healthcare fills in the gaps in care, places the emphasis on patient-centric care, and facilitates a collaborative environment between patient and provider for the patient to bear more responsibility for their health decisions. This promotes positive healthcare experiences, increased patient retention, care continuity, and trust. When a patient receives comprehensive, accessible follow-up information and properly engages in postoperative care, it reduces the risk of complications and readmissions.

Five steps toward an omnichannel healthcare strategy

  1. Patient and clinician interviews: Interview patients and clinicians to understand their experiences navigating and delivering care respectively. Identify pain points, missed connections, or gaps in care. Understand patient preferences around how and when information is delivered—perhaps this varies by condition area, information type, age, or other factors.
  2. User journey mapping: Map out the patient journey, highlighting opportunities to address patient pain points based on interview findings. Begin to brainstorm how information and care could be best and most conveniently delivered at each step of that journey.
  3. Gap analysis: Next, hold your own solution up against that patient journey—where are there gaps in the way care is currently being delivered? Where can care be made more continuous through additional patient touchpoints or communication between care team members? How will your product offer a personalized patient flow that takes into account differences in health and technology literacy among patient segments?
  4. Solution mapping: Begin to map out what a future solution might look like that more seamlessly connects each point along the patient’s journey with your solution. Consider the role of personalization: How will you tailor care (either manually or through automation) to the spectrum of patient needs? How will you measure the success of this new strategy? Consider metrics like patient and clinician satisfaction, level of patient engagement at each step, a lifetime of patient involvement, adoption/churn rates, and care outcomes.
  5. Scoping and implementation: With a new plan in place, begin to scope the project to set clear milestones toward the end platform goal.

Zach Markin is CEO and Co-Founder of HTD Health, a boutique consultancy focused on digital transformation in healthcare.

The firm works with teams across the entire digital product lifecycle: Technology roadmap planning, product discovery, UX/UI product design, web and mobile development, and organizational intelligence.

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