POSTED : April 20, 2016
BY : Jeff Cram

There’s no denying healthcare is in the middle of a radically disruptive period—the question is how this massively complex $3.3 trillion industry will navigate the healthcare digital experience. One way forward, offered up by guest speaker and Forrester Research Sr. Analyst Kate McCarthy, is for healthcare organizations to shift their focus from events like an illness or a claim to full engagement with the customer lifecycle.

This focus on patient engagement and digital innovation were key themes at the recent healthcare executive forum hosted by PK at Boston’s Liberty Hotel. The sold-out gathering brought together healthcare leaders from providers, payers and new venture-backed startup entrants.

Kate was joined on stage by Aaron Watkins of Johns Hopkins Medicine and Matt Templeton of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts—three exemplars in thinking and practicing digital change inside healthcare. Several important ideas emerged from the lively afternoon discussion.

It’s still the age of the customer, with technology as a catalyst for change

Forrester Research has long talked about what it means to be in the age of the customer—but how exactly does this translate to healthcare? Kate unpacked the healthcare digital experience into four big shifts across customer experience, mobile, big data and digital disruption.

She believes these shifts, alongside market forces such as cost controls and expanded access, are introducing healthcare organizations to the empowered patient—a patient who expects more transparency, better access to data, and services that look more like Uber and Airbnb than those typically coming from large, monolithic laggards.

Using the example of finding a parking spot at any of the large urban Boston hospital systems, Kate suggests how much immediate opportunity exists in improving existing experiences across today’s patient journey.

But while patients are in the driver’s seat, it’s clear that technology is a catalyst for making these changes happen. Kate described a not-too-distant future where more services move to the cloud and technology enables a shift from outpatient care to more virtual delivery. New devices and apps connected to consumer health records and data are already starting to drive new patient interactions—while also demanding more regulatory and privacy considerations.

There are similar drivers for payers, as they think about customer experience in a more holistic way with a larger addressable market of participants, increased competition, and a focus on quality and outcomes. Kate highlighted new, disruptive, entrants into the space such as Oscar Health, which are challenging the status quo with better experiences and more connected data and technology systems.

Healthcare digital strategy succeeds with enablement and education

As Kate provided the compass on how to navigate the future of a connected healthcare marketplace, Aaron Watkins, senior director of internet strategy at Johns Hopkins Medicine, gave a behind-the-scenes view into how he manages large-scale digital operations in the here and now.

Nine years into his role heading up digital for the venerable health system, Aaron oversees a 25-person team that sets the bar high for achieving visitor satisfaction across its digital properties. “Our team doesn’t just build a website; we’re creating an integrated experience,” he says.

Core to Aaron’s philosophy is to not just be a strategist, but also an educator inside the organization. He’s focused the digital strategy efforts on providing decision support tools that empower the decentralized organization to create meaningful digital experiences and using data to inform decision making. In fact, he said the most attended recurring meeting he holds is a bi-weekly session to review insights and data.

These efforts have produced measurable results beyond visitor satisfaction. Research by Aaron and team demonstrates that their approach to presenting health information increases retention of that information by nearly 50%.

Design thinking closes the gap on customer insight & increases velocity of execution

Matt Templeton, design thinking lead at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, closed out the day with an energetic discussion on the role of innovation and customer insight inside healthcare.

New to his role at at Blue Cross, Matt is part of a new innovation group helping to bring forward a more human-centered focus and rapid prototyping capabilities. “It isn’t about building the thing right, it’s about building the right thing,” he said.

Matt shared experiences from prior startup and design thinking roles, including time within Fidelity’s innovation group. He advocated how “falling in love with the problem and not the solution” can lead to a deeper understanding of the current state and a more open mindset for possible solutions.

His talk encouraged attendees to expose themselves to the same environment and situations as their customers. He facilitates this inside his organization by routinely bringing in customers for in-person conversations with product and marketing leads who are able to test assumptions in real time.

Future looks bright for the healthcare digital experience

The ideas and inspiration from Kate, Aaron and Matt spilled over into additional discussions and connections during the wine hour. Seeing the activity and engagement at the event gives optimism to the kind of connected experiences and innovation we might expect to see in the future.


About the Author

A picture of Jeff CramJeff Cram co-founded Connective DX which joined forces with PK in 2019 and currently serves as a Partner of PK and General Manager of the Boston office. He is responsible for helping to shape the Boston office’s strategic direction, partnerships and service delivery. Jeff is an active member of the digital community as a blogger for Fast Company and a frequent speaker at national events on topics including experience design, analytics, and content management.

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