To eliminate friction and improve the patient experience, more organizations use technologies such as unified communications to capture healthcare consumers and improve market share.

Like many industries before it, healthcare has discovered the value of designing services with the end consumer front and center in its mind.

As patients shoulder a greater portion of healthcare costs, from rising insurance premiums to higher co-pays, they’re demanding more cost-effective and convenient solutions that provide the best possible outcomes.

In other words, they’re no longer simply patientsthey’re healthcare consumers. They evaluate quality, service and cost, then decide the best place to spend their money. Their expectations include simpler interactions with providers, instant access to accurate pricing information and delivery options that fit their needs.

Maybe you’ve seen this shift in your market. Perhaps a city-based teaching hospital is building standalone clinics to meet the needs of suburbs. A local hospital is reporting emergency care wait times on its website or mobile app. A physician’s practice is enabling patients to make appointments and complete registration forms through an online portal.

All these components represent the consumerization of healthcare and driving change in IT solutions for healthcare.

Healthcare, unified communications and the cloud

Whether it’s access to electronic health records, remote monitoring devices, online scheduling or telemedicine, unified communications enables healthcare consumers to interact with their providers and payers in an entirely new way.

Access to information

While the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act initiated the move toward electronic health records, to achieve meaningful use healthcare organizations must make the systems easily accessible for the patient. This dovetails with today’s healthcare consumer, who want to unify healthcare services and want to use their medical information in order to better manage their own health.

MyHealthEData, an initiative announced by the White House in March 2018, aims to give patients greater access to their electronic health record and insurance claim information. The goal isn’t just access to personal health data, but the ability to share it with apps and online services.

Centers for Medicare & Medicade Services Administrator Seema Verma explains that the agency is considering using APIs “so that software developers, researchers, and others can design useful products (such as apps) powered by it, just as so many companies do to enhance their customer experience.”

Just as they rely on web-based search and reviews to make shopping, dining or entertainment decisions, many healthcare consumers expect the same capabilities when shopping for providers and payers. Consumers want to see quality scores and reviews. Some market leaders enable patients to rate provider services, then share that information with potential customers on their websites.

Communications with healthcare professionals

Healthcare consumers also expect access to their providers using the same methods they use in other spheres, like websites, text, chat, email and video. They want to communicate through multiple devices – laptop, mobile or desktop. Unified communications and the cloud make all this possible with software that joins disparate systems in a secure, HIPAA-compliant way.

Telemedicine, or virtual care, is no longer science fiction. In one large healthcare system, stroke victims are attended by a neurologist within five minutes of entering the ER. How is this possible? An on-call doctor is available for consultation at a moment’s notice. A camera, capable of zooming in and out, is accessible by doctors via any available device, be it mobile or desktop. They can interact with the patient and evaluate the situation immediately as a nurse stands with the patient. The results: Better clinical outcomes and more satisfied patients.

Managing personal health

Several of the top fatal diseases in the U.S. could be prevented or better-managed if patients changed their behaviors. As an example, one-third of cancer cases are related to poor nutrition, obesity, lack of exercise and smoking. Similarly, heart disease and diabetes are manageable illnesses, but require patients to stay on top of their numbers.

Through the use of wearable health technology, connected medical solutions and remote monitoring devices, patients can now collect vital signs and communicate them via the cloud to their providers. Unified communications with the use of APIs can connect these devices to the patient’s electronic records.

Healthcare providers and payers are using customer relationship management (CRM) systems in new ways. More than a marketing tool, CRMs can help improve clinical outcomes. For example, knowing that the patient had recent surgery, the provider can reach out via personalized communications for follow up and to provide important information for self-care.

The bottom line is that unified communications gives consumers the power to better manage their own health. It also enables healthcare providers and payers to target the needs of their patients, produce better clinical outcomes and grow their revenue.

Improving your hospital's performance is possible with unified communications. Learn more with our ebook. >

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