Consumers (Patients) Setting the Pace for Healthcare Disruption

Disruption is a way to not only stand out to consumers but to outshine your competition

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the healthcare industry is undergoing massive changes when it comes to disruption. Look at what several big tech companies have implemented within the last year such as Amazon, JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway’s partnership to bring healthcare costs down for US employees; Apple’s plans to open two health clinics in California for employees; Verily is looking for opportunities to enter the managed care world; and Uber released Uber Health to provide patient rides to and from medical appointments.  Consumerism is an age that is now upon us and we must go above and beyond satisfying patient needs due to the driving force of a more informed consumer. The mantra of healthcare “disruption” is being discussed by countless conference speakers, articles, webinars and social media posts. If you have any involvement in the healthcare industry, you have heard of the “disruption” phenomenon in recent years.

But, did you know that many large industries have already been through this paradigm shift of “disruption” to fulfill consumers’ needs to access services from the touch of a button, wherever they are, twenty-four hours a day? Just look at the transportation, data/analytics and media industries, along with many others. So why has an industry as essential as healthcare only started to come to terms with the impact of disruption driven by consumerism? As Healthcare Designers we need to start thinking more like our client’s consumers – the patients. The acceptance of healthcare digital disruption needs to be a choice before the industry is compelled to remake itself.

Understanding the Consumer (Patient) Experience

Disruptive innovation can be diagnosed based on what is going to make a consumer (patient) have the best experience possible. There is a lot more competition out there when it comes to what healthcare facility a consumer is going to choose. Consumers are no longer passive patients and are more likely to interface with the healthcare industry by looking at other consumer reviews online and price checking different options. For example, Healthgrades lets consumers browse information containing ratings and pricing of hospitals, doctors and health systems. This consumer shift is due to interactions with other service industries changing the buying thought process.

Redefining the Consumer (Patient) Experience

Over the last few years, there has been an increase in making the patient experience better due to intense health system competition. Big data has held a role in collecting information on patients and how to better manage a patient relationship. All of this is well and good but if you want to redefine the consumer experience in the healthcare industry, there needs to be a deviation back to basics. Simply put, what is going to make a human being happier by allowing them to have more control over their environment and be comfortable? Waiting, no sense of direction, uncomfortable temperatures, feeling unsafe and lack of communication are all straightforward reasons why a person would be unhappy anywhere. A healthcare facility is no different.

Healthcare Design – What is to Come?

Designers need to be focused on the development of spaces that enhance the focus and contempt of the consumer (patient), next-of-kin and staff. This all starts with a centralized registration system through apparent wayfinding capabilities. Piedmont Healthcare in Georgia took this a step further by developing an app for consumers to find their way around their facilities. Waiting rooms should be on the smaller side and encompass a plethora of technological ingenuity. Charging stations, complementary Wi-Fi along with community integration will make consumers feel more comfortable while small room size leads to less people crowding the waiting room. Some health facilities are even eliminating waiting rooms altogether and using a self-rooming process, so consumers can go directly where they need to be for their appointment. Consumers utilizing telemedicine can conduct their virtual visit in a tiny dual-use room that can also be used as a private chat room between staff and consumers. Exam rooms should be set up for transparency by allowing everyone in the room to view computer screens and a window to leave in natural light. Licensed consumer bed rooms need to be designed to allow for more control. Giving each consumer an electronic tablet that allows them to adjust the temperature and lighting, listen to music, summon a nurse and view educational videos about their diagnosis/treatment would provide a sense on control over the physical environment.

As a truly impressive example, Lenox Hill Hospital’s maternity ward in New York City takes the consumer experience above and beyond. They offer birthing suites that are designed to look and function like a luxury hotel. Dark wood paneling, stainless steel appliances in a mini-kitchenette, a spa-like bathroom and iPads for room control comfort detail the suites. Not only are the rooms designed for tranquility, but the staff offers unique welcoming items to make consumers feel at home while they bring their newest family member into the world. A tote bag filled with slippers and a plush robe is sitting on the bed upon arrival. After a baby is born, nurses bring the mother and father chocolate covered strawberries and champagne. The mother and father can even have a candlelit dinner post-delivery while the hospital staff watches the baby!

In conclusion, consumers are now setting the pace and patients must be viewed in the same light. A healthcare facility does not have to go as far as Lenox Hospital with chocolate covered strawberries, but the experience needs to be one that is memorable. Disruption may feel like a ticking-time bomb about to explode throughout the healthcare industry, but disruption is a way to not only stand out to consumers but to outshine competition. Design firms need to be able to offer value in this age of consumerism and help guide healthcare facilities through designed spaced. Healthcare facilities that adopt this strategy now will be the facilities of tomorrow.

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