How healthcare providers can manage the patient experience and employee experience through COVID-19 + beyond

Brett Brende | Aug 26, 2020 Brett Brende 08/26/20

Following the initial limited-services phase of the pandemic, healthcare providers and patients are still settling into a new normal. But with cases resurging across the U.S.—fueling health + safety concerns and creating inconsistencies in state guidelines + protocols—organizations must continually evolve their experience management (XM) strategy to accommodate these rapid changes.

To help guide your efforts, here are 3 steps your organization should take:

  1. Prioritize telehealth services

    SMG research shows more than half of consumers are concerned about COVID-19 exposure from a healthcare visit—and this is having a big impact on patient behavior. With more than 1 in 3 reporting they are less likely to schedule routine check-ups, organizations must prioritize the heightened health + safety concerns of patients and implement a future-focused strategy.

    Coronavirus-concern-impact-on-routine-healthcare-visit-smg-1

    This includes prioritizing digital efforts to ensure consumers have a viable telehealth option. Though telemedicine isn’t an entirely new concept, the sudden onset of the pandemic forced many organizations to quickly pivot to virtual offerings before they were fully prepared—sometimes creating confusion and frustration among patients trying to use this service.

    For example, our research shows that while 88% of respondents are aware of telehealth options and 75% say they would consider using the service, only 46% have used telehealth in the last year.

    This gap represents a huge opportunity for healthcare—not just to meet the needs of patients amid the pandemic, but for the foreseeable future. Convenience was the number one reason respondents would use or consider using a telehealth service, meaning this trend isn’t just driven by current health concerns. It’s an attractive alternative for busy consumers craving more convenient options—and has potential to become a preferred method in the long haul.  

  2. Provide clear + concise communication

    How can healthcare organizations encourage telehealth usage and optimize this convenient and safe option for patients? The key is in effective communication and proper education in order to drive trust and increase comfort levels. When asked why they wouldn’t consider using telehealth services, respondents cited these primary factors:

    • Prefer to interact in person with my doctor
    • Concerned about quality of care
    • Concerned about receiving an improper diagnosis
    • Privacy or security concerns

    It’s up to providers to ensure their patients understand that telehealth services can be an effective, safe option and to communicate the process in a way that provides a seamless experience at every touchpoint. SMG’s research shows a direct correlation between how likely someone is to use telehealth services vs. how much information their provider gives them.  

    Percent-of-patients-likely-to-use-telehealth-in-next-year-smg-2

  3. Elevate safety + cleanliness measures

Though telehealth is the best way to avoid exposure, it’s not always the preferred option. Patients receiving in-person care expect organizations to provide a safe experience. This includes:

  • Limiting the number of patients in the waiting room
  • Providing hand sanitizer at entrances/exits
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces
  • Having short wait times in the clinic

Healthcare employees are also prioritizing a safe work environment. This includes more access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and being provided a work-from-home option or hazard pay when applicable. In such uncertain times, organizations that go above and beyond to protect their employees will drive loyalty, increase engagement, and reduce turnover.

Leverage direct, real-time feedback to win employee + patient loyalty

The most effective way to adapt your XM strategies and meet these changing needs and expectations of patients and employees is simple: ask them. With so much uncertainty surrounding the future of healthcare services, it’s imperative to listen closely across touchpoints and act quickly on the insights.

SMG’s exclusive Interactive XM Playbook helps healthcare organizations do just that by providing fundamental steps across a 3-phased journey:

  1. Protect employees + patients while mitigating negative operational impact
  2. Continue adapting operations effectively as we collectively manage the “new normal”
  3. Future-proof the program + maximize the opportunity to emerge as a stronger provider

With circumstances and patient/employee expectations continually changing, providers must look to their XM programs to respond accordingly. The playbook is designed to ensure your program positions you to manage operational complexities with agility, navigate evolving needs with precision, and drive employee + patient loyalty.

To get started, download your copy: How healthcare providers can manage patient and employee experiences during COVID-19 + beyond.


Brett Brende | VP, Healthcare

Customer Experience Update