In a year of rapid adaptation, healthcare providers worldwide quickly transitioned to virtual care to both limit risk associated with COVID-19 and assure continuity of routine care. With patients returning to in-person appointments, the lessons learned during the height of the pandemic are likely to influence the future of patient experience.
As part of the BioBridge program, a partnership designed to bolster international innovation and collaboration, patient experience experts from the Kingdom of Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the Texas Medical Center gathered for a virtual discussion on the future of patient experience in the age of digital care.
Though patient experience can encompass a broad spectrum of topics, the panel of experts focused on the goal of total patient wellness and the opportunity digital health brings to quality care delivery. As Katie Kalenda-Daggett, Director of Patient and Family Services at Texas Children’s Hospital noted, digital health allows us “to home in on being personalized – which is not always easy in large scale health systems – and also be compassionate which, of course, is at the core of everything we do.”
David McNally, Head of Experience of Care at NHS England and NHS Improvement, echoed the sentiment. While the UK’s universal healthcare system offers a different experience, “there’s an important shift that we’re making to patients being partners in their own care… “In order to get people’s experience right, we have to put them at the center of it,” McNally noted. In doing so, the patient experience is improved. Clinicians and healthcare professionals get to the heart of what is most important to patients and their families; creating a holistic plan that assists them throughout their full journey.
The level of patient engagement has also changed as healthcare has evolved. In the shift to virtual care, patients quickly adopted a previously underutilized model, sharply increasing the number of appointments scheduled for virtual care. As a result, clinicians and professionals are now thinking about a patient beyond the hospital walls, understanding what will, and won’t, work for a patient’s home environment and lifestyle.
Virtual care has welcomed clinicians into patients’ homes; “we can now make house visits. We used to have limitations due to distance, but now we can make a house visit within 48 hours after sending your [patient] home,” explained Thomas Leth Frandsen, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Project Officer at Copenhagen Children’s Hospital.
The newfound level of intimacy between patients and clinicians has benefited human aspect of the patient experience. On the other hand, the digital reporting and timely access to clinicians has been key to a patient’s success outside of the doctor’s office.
At MD Anderson Cancer Center, they’re exploring options in real time, speaking directly with patients and their families, building models for remote monitoring. The possibilities of this technology are impressive, giving patients the feeling of connectivity to care, while in the comfort of their own home. “It’s no longer just a video visit, but can we get daily information…that provides a larger picture of how they’re doing at home,” said Sarah Christensen, MA, Director of Patient Education at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
In some ways, digital technology has brought the healthcare industry full circle: welcoming clinicians back into patients’ homes, and lives, in a more holistic, humanized way as they did in the earliest days of medicine. While we’ve learned a lot in our year of virtual care, the possibilities for improvement are endless. As our moderator Adnan Iqbal, CEO of Luma Health concluded, we are eager to watch the overall patient experience continue to improve in our digital age. Leading a digital patient engagement company, Adnan is playing an active role in enabling the transformation of the patient experience for health systems and clinics around the country.