Retailers are constantly looking for a way to stand out in a crowded, competitive marketplace. Their customers demand a combination of convenience, choice, quality and an excellent experience. And they want to choose how they interact with the retailer – online, brick and mortar standalone store, or shopping mall.
Healthcare is facing similar challenges. Customers – patients and their families – are more discerning and don’t automatically go to the “family doctor” for referrals to other providers or hospitals. They check with friends, look at social media and online reviews, and research websites to find the best place for their health care. Although insurance coverage drives some of their search, individuals choose how far they want to drive and hours they can visit the doctor, and often want to make appointments online or via extended hours appointment lines.
In both industries, data is collected at every encounter. In retail, data is not only used to determine overall inventory levels based on buying trends or location-specific products based on previous sales, but it is also used to enhance the customer experience by reaching out with targeted communications designed to increase customer engagement.
Hospitals also need to increase customer loyalty and some organizations are relying on customer relationship management (CRM) programs to drive communications and identify the best way to reach potential patients. At the same time, healthcare organizations are also turning to data to drive innovation in areas of new service development or population health management initiatives, but unlike retail, healthcare has some inherent barriers to optimizing these efforts.
Unlike retailers, who have the capability to use data across the organization for multiple purposes, healthcare organizations rely on legacy information technology infrastructure that has grown by adding task-specific applications, programs or systems to meet regulatory or marketplace demands. Data is collected and managed in siloed systems that cannot easily share information with other users. This means that decisions made by operations, finance, marketing and clinical staff is not always made with a 360 degree view of the entire patient experience and outcomes.
What can be done with more robust information?
Strengthen Affinity and Customer Loyalty
- Just as retailers create loyal customers by responding to their needs, healthcare organizations can use data to evaluate patient experience and satisfaction to improve performance. Identifying gaps in care or causes of dissatisfaction enables hospitals and clinicians to address these issues in communications, clinical care, outcomes and overall experience.
Enhance the Patient Experience
- One way that healthcare providers can improve a patient’s perception of the organization is to provide valuable information that is tailored to their needs. Just as retailers offer customers products that are related to previous purchases, healthcare can use data from a patient’s electronic medical records, attendance at a health seminar or requests for brochures through a website to start a conversation. Health tips, dates and locations of seminars related to their requests or diagnoses and announcements of new services tailored to the consumer’s specific information positions the healthcare entity as a resource – further strengthening the consumer’s ties to the organization.
- Today’s value-based reimbursement environment increases the importance of patient satisfaction and quality outcomes beyond creating a loyal customer base. Developing data-driven clinical models that reduce re-admissions, minimize lengths of stay and control costs increase reimbursement and add value to the bottom line.
The first step on the journey to use best practices of the retail data model is to make data across the enterprise available to all users. This does not require a complete overhaul of the IT infrastructure and a significant capital expenditure. In fact, a managed services approach to data management and integration shifts a one-time, large expense to predictable, monthly costs in the operations budget.
A data management platform that integrates and harmonizes data to make it available to multiple applications or systems, can serve as the aggregator and “translator” so staff in each department can continue to use the program with which they are comfortable, but can receive a wider range of data.
Although consumers will not be able to order a surgical procedure online anytime soon – if ever – the retail industry does offer a good example of how an industry can successfully incorporate enterprise-wide data into decisions that will drive innovation, quality improvement and patient engagement.