On May 19, 2016, I took part in the panel Healthy Populations: Serving the Citizens of the Lone Star State given during the Texas Governing Leadership Forum. The event focused on the opportunities and solutions needed to manage issues related to the rapid growth of the state population, including infrastructure, labor, education and healthcare.
Texas adds 600 new residents every day, taxing resources and testing the resiliency of communities and the state at large. Already, the state has the highest uninsured population in the country (25%), and the disparity is growing between the need for physical and mental health care and access to affordable options.
The goal of our discussion was to take a long-range look at the implications of this increasing healthcare gap. We discussed solutions local and state healthcare providers could employ to improve access to and quality of care while keeping costs at bay.
The first line priority is to understand patient needs and desires. Keeping the patient experience at the center of every effort shapes the underlying culture. It motivates everything from how facilities are designed, to what technologies are put in place to make the clinic experience less stressful, to how employees perform their roles.
With that in mind, the process begins with a patient journey discovery process that maps every step from appointment through post-care follow up. Understanding the way patients engage with the clinic environment and caregivers uncovers opportunities to streamline processes and automate routine tasks, putting more control in the hands of patients and more real-time patient information in the hands of caregivers.
The resulting operational efficiencies allow caregivers to focus more on personalizing each patient interaction. The desire to be ‘heard’ is one of the most basic patient needs. Giving staff the opportunity to listen and engage is vital to improving the patient experience. These direct, caring interactions also are shown to improve employee fulfillment.
Streamlining and automating the tasks between making an appointment and receiving care can significantly lower operating costs. For example, by leveraging patient journey technology like self check-in kiosks, digital signage and mobile workforce solutions, clinic environments can transform queuing line areas into highly efficient patient engagement spaces.
This broad availability of information and clear communication is valuable not only for accommodating a higher patient volume with existing square footage, it reduces anxiety in the environment. More informed patients tend to be less anxious. The same is true for a more organized and efficient staff. The result is a cause/effect process that benefits the patient, staff, and clinic. Overall patient experience is higher, quality of care is higher, feedback is more positive, and the clinic benefits from more reliable reimbursements and a better competitive position in the marketplace.