An increasing number of European citizens are no longer willing to passively receive medical treatment and care. What they expect instead is to be able to make their own choices, based on reliable information and recommendations that are immediately understandable.
In order to gain the ability to make an informed choice, people must have access to their own health data. In this sense, the expectations of the consumer, also in the Healthcare sector, are becoming increasingly high, and the demand for transparency in the relationship with suppliers is becoming more pressing.
A direct result of more accurate knowledge of one’s health status is the demand for easier and more convenient access to services that are actually reliable. To achieve these goals – to understand and manage their treatment plans more consciously and to use them with less difficulty – patients are willing to adopt technologies that track their health. In this regard, we talked about the impact of digital transformation in the Healthcare sector.
Here’s the key point: patient centricity is made possible not only by a cultural paradigm shift, but also by digital transformation. Technology, through the collection, organization, and targeted use of a large amount of information, can help reduce inequalities in healthcare, offering users the possibility of greater equity in access to services and a wider and more articulated space for participation.
For companies and public institutions operating in this sector, the possibility of designing personalized initiatives and programs, defined based on the constant feedback with involved and informed patients, means:
- creating more satisfying patient experiences,
- increasing a wealth of knowledge that can be used to advance research,
- improving their business results, in terms of productivity and efficiency.
Players in the industry have capitalized on the way digital resources have been used in very different markets – financial services, insurance, retail, tourism, just to name a few – and have developed their own original services (increasingly mobile and patient-oriented).
Today, searching for a doctor, renewing a prescription, visiting (remotely via telemedicine), accessing test and exam results, scheduling an appointment, and paying for a service can all be done using new technologies. In this way, digitization redesigns the patient journey – which is increasingly inbound – shaping the experience across different touchpoints, from learning more about a topic to booking an appointment.
Digital tools have a profound impact on both ends of the brand-patient relationship, and the personalized and interactive communications enabled by digitization provide the patient with an experience that is in some ways revolutionary. Every user – who is both patient and consumer – has specific needs that must be investigated, listened to, and satisfied. To be able to give effective answers in a short time to these particular needs, solutions have been developed over the years that focus on realizing greater interaction possibilities. An example of these solutions are personalized videos and dynamic, responsive micro-websites that are created based on the data of individuals to provide a more complete and valuable patient experience.
When we talk about patient centricity, the association with another centricity, that of the consumer, immediately comes to mind. Points of contact obviously exist and are numerous, but in the case of healthcare marketing, it’s necessary to expand the definition, while also investigating the obstacles that can slow down its full realization.
What does patient-centricity mean?
According to a Deloitte article from early 2020 (Striving to become more patient-centric in life sciences) although there is a need to create a common language around the issue, to date, there is no single definition of patient-centricity, nor a standard framework or approach. However, the authors admit that it’s possible to proceed by saying what patient-centeredness is not:
- It’s not a public relations initiative, focused on the outside: the change starts from the corporate culture, which must incorporate processes, methodologies, and metrics.
- It cannot be resolved by observing patients as mere objects of study: the centrality of the patient does not consist only in making clinical trials less invasive with a view to speeding up time-to-market.
- It’s not a formula that can be applied indiscriminately to all cases: the centrality of the patient will not only be different for each company, it will have to be adapted to the individual case and interpreted in the light of the user’s personal profile.
One definition that retains an ideal character and is often taken as a reference appeals to the principles of education, information, co-creation, access, and transparency, and describes patient-centeredness as the ability and willingness to put the patient first, and to create for him or her an open environment in which to provide the best experience and outcomes for that person and his or her family in the most respectful and compassionate way possible.
Patient centricity and centrality of the person: a constitutional principle
In Italy, the patient centricity is a direct consequence of the application of the principle of the centrality of the person in the Italian Constitution to the field of medicine and care, and is expressed in a series of fundamental rights:
- The freedom of choice of physician and place of care. The freedom of choice of citizens concerns both public and private institutions that provide high specialty services, “with an indication of the high-tech equipment provided as well as the rates charged for the most relevant services”.
- Information and participation rights. To guarantee the constant adaptation of healthcare structures and services to the needs of citizens, the Minister of Health has defined the contents and modalities of use of quality indicators of healthcare services and services related to the personalization and humanization of assistance and the right to information. To facilitate citizen orientation, all providers involved must provide for the activation of an effective system of information on services provided, tariffs, and methods of access to services.
- Rights of opposition. Art. 14 of Legislative Decree 502 of 30/12/1992 provides for the adoption, at the request of patients, of the measures necessary to remove inefficiencies that affect the quality of care.
- Informed consent and the right to confidentiality. The patient has the right to be informed about the precise type of treatment, the way it is carried out, and any related risks. In addition, the right to confidentiality in relation to health data is guaranteed by subjecting the processing of personal data relating to the state of health by third parties to the consent of the person concerned.
Beyond the indecision on the attribution of different shades of meaning to the expression “patient centricity”, we can see that there are some recurring elements: the need for correct and transparent information; the ease of access to services; the right to safe and respectful treatment of data; the possibility to choose the provider and type of care in full freedom and conscience. While the concept of patient centricity implies a greater awareness of the patient himself, it also requires those working in the healthcare sector to be more accountable for their practices and goals.
Digital transformation plays a major role in the affirmation of patient centricity, both because it creates the conditions for the development of virtuous business models and because it makes it possible to face and overcome some obstacles that risk to undercut the change.
The difficulties in realizing the principle of patient-centricity
Today, consumers can be intercepted by companies on multiple channels and actively use the technologies available to them to engage in increasingly less linear purchasing processes, which develop through successive conversions, on different media.
In general, consumers have now learned to use this complex system of communication, becoming more and more confident in exploiting the new resources available. Along with their digital expertise, expectations about the type of online experience they expect (and want, sometimes demand) have also increased. The first obstacle we’re talking about has to do with the expectations of a (potential) patient who is also a consumer.
1. Increasingly demanding patients (and consumers!)
A recent article published in the Harvard Business Review discusses the challenges around the status of the “digital patient”. According to the article, brands and organizations operating in the healthcare sector are still struggling to identify a solid correlation between the patient and the consumer. They would continue to conceive of them as distinct and hardly overlapping: the former receiving healthcare, the latter deciding whether to acquire a good or a service and eventually taking the necessary steps to complete the purchase.
The point is that healthcare providers would traditionally only be interested in patients. That’s why they would invest (time and budget) primarily on the quality of medical care (on the technical aspects of diagnosis and treatment) and would instead be disinterested in the consumer dimension of the service (no particular attention to convenience of access to services, sustainable costs, and satisfactory experiences).
Today, however, patients are also consumers, and they expect to use digital tools for all the operations that technology allows them to carry out online: looking for information on the treatment pathway, for example, or scheduling follow-up appointments, or remembering to take their medication, or even paying for a service.
Precisely because expectations have changed dramatically, health system players can no longer be satisfied with providing excellent medical care and a negative patient experience. Both aspects of service are interconnected and affect each other, with immediate impacts on patient health.
2. Misaligned touchpoints and disconnected pathways
According to the Salesforce Healthcare, new marketing trends report just 28% of healthcare marketers are completely satisfied with their ability to create a dynamic, integrated, and connected patient experience.
One effective way to take action on this problem is to introduce more personalization. With data, all physical and digital touch points can be reorganized so that they are consistent with the overall path designed for the individual patient. In this way, personalized engagement impacts the entire journey, from when potential patients learn about the brand to when patients who are already loyal promote and recommend it. Salesforce highlights how 51% of professionals surveyed believe that creating a fluid patient journey that unravels without friction between all touchpoints and channels is likely to result in a positive experience.
3. Data security and privacy protection
In an ever-evolving environment where technological innovations enable ever more advanced forms of personalization, trust is the truly scarce (and therefore invaluable) resource according to 55% of marketers surveyed by Salesforce. There is a constantly challenged balance between personalization and privacy, and the ability to protect data is what crucially affects the trust patients feel in healthcare providers. To protect this fragile balance, it’s important to turn to companies like Doxee that know how to put digital security first, while complying with regulatory updates.
Doxee: personalizing health and wellness
While it’s undeniable that the patient experience is much more than the technology that enables it, patients themselves expect technology to empower them to be increasingly heard and recognized by the brand. Let’s take a few examples: patients today don’t just want to use their mobile device to schedule an appointment with a doctor, they want, through their smartphone, to schedule that appointment at their preferred time and place, with the professional of their choice and within a reasonable amount of time, perhaps proceeding to payment directly via app. Not only do they want to use the portal where their electronic medical records are uploaded to check the results of tests or examinations (which they may not understand), they instead expect to be informed about their situation, the next steps to take, possible alternatives, and specialists who might be contacted.
Also in the case of healthcare – as happens in other sectors – we are moving towards a progressive redefinition of activities in terms of perceived value, the result of which is linked to patient satisfaction. In order to increase the value, the best way seems to be the one that leads to the personalization of health and wellness. A goal that companies can achieve by relying on companies specializing in this area, such as Doxee, which for years has been creating personalized and automated projects for its customers, enriched with useful and meaningful content such as Doxee Pvideo®, and enhanced by flexible tools with enormous communication power such as Doxee Pweb® microsites.