What if a doctor’s visit could be as seamless and contactless as an Amazon Go experience? Imagine this: before an appointment, the patient completes a pre-visit registration intake form at home from their personal device. When they arrive at the doctor’s office, they can check in online from the car, and get real-time alerts about wait time estimates and details on what to expect during the visit. When it’s their turn to see the doctor, they receive digital navigation directions and an itinerary via their mobile device to help navigate through the campus and offices to reach the right exam rooms. After the visit, they can pay for the appointment online and schedule a follow-up visit, all through their personal device. This is the potential and promise of contactless care, with the in-person encounter really only being with the provider and essential technicians. It’s also the safest way to bring back patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 has resulted in a steep decline in patient visits across all specialties. Although visits to ambulatory care practices have rebounded since early April after a decline of nearly 60 percent, visits are still roughly a third lower than they were before the pandemic. These delayed appointments mean that health systems face severely declining revenue, with US hospitals and health systems losing an average of $50 billion per month. Safely and effectively bringing patients back to healthcare facilities is imperative, not just for health systems but for patients. Putting off preventive care, skipping important diagnostic procedures, or avoiding the emergency department are delays that put patient outcomes and long-term health at risk.
How can health systems reimagine a sustainable model for the in-person ambulatory visit? How can patients begin to rebuild trust and confidence in on-site care? It starts with reimagining the patient experience to enable a contactless patient journey, from pre-visit registration to post-visit payment and documentation. Leading and innovative health systems will not only focus on recovering patient volumes in the short-term, but will reimagine care to meet patients’ evolving demands.
COVID-19 created an urgent need to innovate care delivery and eliminate challenges including crowded spaces, high-touch areas, and significant staff/customer interactions. But the demand for convenient care is nothing new. Consumers experience a seamless, contactless experience in almost every other industry, including airlines, hospitality, and retail. These industries have relied on digital to create customized and convenient experiences. Digital will also be the key for healthcare to create a smooth, touchless experience that is safe, works for the provider, and supports healthcare consumers along each step of their journey.
Leading health systems are already creating a contactless experience at key points in the patient journey. For example, before patient arrival, Memorial Health in Ohio facilitates contactless COVID-19 screening, registration, check-in, and payment through a self-service platform. Early results show widespread usage and increased efficiencies: 60 days after going live, 80% of patients checked in using the platform and 220+ staff hours were saved.
To fully re-envision care, digital solutions must be integrated with an updated strategic and operational approach. This includes but is not limited to: optimizing a mix of virtual and in-person visits, integrating digital into physical spaces, changing staffing models, and communicating changes with broad outreach to patients.
Reimagining the patient journey will not only enable health systems to bring patients back to on-site facilities, it will also help prepare organizations for future surges and reduce provider risk. In the long-term, a contactless patient experience will create the foundation for resilience and agility in healthcare operations, while also building loyalty and trust with patients. Health systems need to seize this moment and recognize that contactless care is not a short-term recovery strategy, but the path to future sustainability and growth.