In recent years, it’s become de rigueur to refer to the retailization of healthcare, as the industry reacts to consumers who expect the kind of convenience they get from the retail industry. At the same time, I see the future of healthcare being shaped by the customer experience (CX) revolution.
In 2015, thought leader Brian Solis commented on the rise of CX fairly bluntly in his book X: The Experience When Business Meets Design: “Experience is the new brand. Experiences are the new branding. The future is experience.” His prediction is coming true as more industries seek to differentiate amid the sudden rise of the digital economy that has taken hold over the past year. However, some businesses have been more forward-thinking, and they can teach many others, including healthcare providers, what it means to provide a delightful CX as opposed to an adequate one.
The Rise of Apple
One of the most compelling examples of a business raising the bar for CX is Apple. We’ve all heard the story (numerous times) of how Steve Jobs was obsessed with delivering a delightful CX. But the Tim Cook era has been equally important, and relevant, to healthcare providers. Under Tim Cook’s guidance, Apple is racing to provide a delightful CX for wellness care by compressing our personal wellness data in real time and delivering that data in compelling ways through our iPhones and the Apple Watch.
To do so, Apple needed to build a strong data ecosystem. For example, in 2014 Apple launched HealthKit, which gave Apple users a central repository to track health and fitness data on their Apple devices. The launch of the Apple Watch in 2015 pushed Apple further into the consumer health-management wearable space, and the company’s 2016 acquisition of Gliimpse, a medical data storage and sharing start-up, helped Apple support clinical care with smarter electronic health records.
Today more than 100 million people own an Apple Watch. And they have access to an incredible wealth of personal data compressed and shared in real time via the Apple Health app. Your Apple Watch can report your sleeping patterns, track your daily steps, alert you about high or low heart rates, check your blood oxygen levels, and track a woman’s menstrual cycle, among many other features. And the device gets smarter every year. At Apple’s 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced that with iOS 15, users can choose to securely give a loved one visibility into their health and wellness data as well as trend analysis for 20 types of data.
But it’s not just the volume of data tracked that makes the Apple Watch so effective – it’s also the way Apple reports data in real time by visualizing personal health data and gamifying the experience of health monitoring, such as awarding badges for accomplishing workout tasks like hiking. Or consider how the Apple Watch depicts “three rings” of personal activity – moving, exercising, and standing – on an Apple Watch face, and then challenges users to close each ring by accomplishing different fitness tasks. To do all this, Apple needs to compress your personal data in real time and constantly report your progress toward meeting your personal fitness goals each time you glance at your Apple Watch.
Now compare this experience with the one you get with your healthcare provider. For most healthcare providers, reporting your healthcare data through a portal is about as good as the experience gets. You receive data presented in a format that is designed for physicians, not patients. You certainly don’t receive personal data anywhere near real time. And it’s often delivered as raw data without any context, an example being the reporting of low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, which are two different types of data with implications on your personal health.
Apple is not the only company setting the standard for delivering a delightful CX by compressing important personal data and reporting it in real time. For example, the Lifesum app helps people achieve weight and health goals by focusing on better eating. Betterfly syncs data from physical exercise apps, transmuting calories burned and physical activity into charity donations and meal delivery to hungry kids. Many more healthcare startups are providing their own app-based solutions that are changing consumer expectations of healthcare. Outside of healthcare, apps are helping people manage personal needs such as finance, which Robinhood famously does to enable personal investing.
These experiences are going to challenge healthcare providers to catch up sooner or later – especially as the Millennial and Gen Z populations, whose lives are defined by digital, become bigger and more influential.
How Might Healthcare Respond?
As influential as Apple is, the company does not provide healthcare. Its employees do not manage those important moments that define a great healthcare CX, such as when someone seeking healthcare enters a provider’s digital front door to learn more about their options. The digital front door is crucial. A poor initial experience creates a cloud of doubt and alienation that can color the entire patient journey. A delightful initial experience creates a halo effect. Which would you rather your patients experience? And how might you ensure that you delight your patients the way Apple delights users? I think the process of answering those questions means taking a hard look at the journey your patients take to find care and then examining:
- Where in that journey you might provide moments of delight – whether on a social media app, your website, or any other place patients encounter your brand.
- How easy it is for patients to learn about your services on your website as they move from awareness to considering a provider. Is your content organized around the patient’s needs, or is it organized around your internal structure, which is less relevant?
- How well you onboard patients, including the digital tools you provide for booking an appointment with a physician.
- How well you manage the entire patient journey, including the effectiveness of your patient portal for keeping patients up to date on everything ranging from billing to timely and relevant wellness data.
These are just some of the considerations that come into play when a provider seeks to elevate their experience from adequate to delightful. Contact us to learn how we can help you succeed in your journey.