Key takeaways

  • Designing virtual health solutions requires a shift in mindset and approach that puts experience first.
  • Patients, clinicians and providers are ready for virtual healthcare, and co-creating together will ensure the best benefits and solutions to legacy problems.
  • Trust and transparency will be key as patients take a more hands-on role in their own healthcare treatment.

Everyone has heard the wisecracks about doctors’ handwriting. But there really is a shred of wisdom hidden between the jokes: good health outcomes are only possible when clinicians and patients communicate clearly and understand one another.

Modern health technology offers a wealth of opportunities to improve the experience that clinicians and patients have before, during and after their interactions. The same goes for caregivers and patients’ families too. With the right strategy and execution, virtual health can keep people better informed, connected and understood – while minimising inconvenience and empowering everyone to shape their own personalised healthcare experience.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when designing the virtual health experience:

Put experience first

Amidst the ebb and flow of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare leaders have had to make critical decisions that will have long-lasting impacts. One of them is how they and their colleagues design, refine and deliver their virtual health services. Committing to an experience-led approach today could be a genuine game changer. 

Consumers and clinicians alike have had their expectations raised by everyday interactions in other industries. Everywhere from banking and utilities, to retail and entertainment, people routinely enjoy convenience, simplicity and better service. As our Global Consumer Insights Survey 2020 points out, the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this trend. 

A culture of ‘experience expectations’, where each new and innovative experience has become the standard against which all others are compared. By embracing this culture, health services could dramatically improve on traditional methods of delivery.

Shift your mindset

Designing virtual health solutions involves much more than taking existing physical delivery models and replicating them in an online/digital environment. A shift in mindset and approach is required, especially as virtual health is something that consumers and clinics opt into, and experiences must be exceptional to get ‘buy in’ from clinicians and consumers.

Instead of telling patients and the workforce how healthcare is delivered, ask consumers and clinicians what they need and how they can best engage with it. Trial new solutions, monitor performance, and make changes. In this way, seamless experiences can be built to solve legacy problems and create new benefits.

Consider what everyone wants

Patients and clinicians are ready for virtual health as is the technology. And the business model stacks up too. Indeed, a consumer survey from PwC’s Health Research Institute in the US indicates that not only are healthcare consumers increasingly turning to virtual options, but they are taking a more active role in the health system, such as participation in clinical trials and selective data sharing, using these virtual channels.

Patients say they want their health providers to know who they are and engage with them in a manner and time that is convenient. And they want a clinician who they feel comfortable communicating with virtually. Clinicians say they want technology to support their time management and improve patient interactions to deliver better outcomes. And for service providers, the removal of friction and inefficiency improves productivity and reduces costs.

Embrace data for better outcomes

Organisations now have a wealth of data to assess the maturity and efficacy of their virtual healthcare offering. The momentum from this – combined with technology advancements and funding pressures – presents compelling opportunities to shift further towards healthcare modelled around patient and clinician experiences.

Viewed through the lens of patient and clinician needs, virtual health, beyond just telehealth, could augment capacity and capability for clinicians, provide more accessible patient experiences, support patients and carers with tailored treatments and encourage patients to take a more active role in managing their health.

Prioritise people

Whether an organisation is early in its virtual health journey, becoming more sophisticated, or even leading the way, there is an ongoing need to prioritise the needs of all users (clinicians and consumers alike) while keeping pace with technological advancements.

When an organisation’s virtual health maturity is evolving, there can be a tendency to ‘drown in data’ or for technology options to command too much attention. But leaders can’t lose sight of the people who will be interacting with their services. That means defining the user journey from beginning to end, and revisiting this as technology capability and user preferences change over time.

Flexibility is an essential feature of any experience-led virtual health solution, for example, medical appointment solutions need to include features such as scheduling, booking, and notifications for patients; plus real-time access and visibility for clinicians.

Build in transparency and trust

To achieve widespread (and sustained) adoption of virtual health, there needs to be an intrinsic level of trust on the part of clinician and patient. Providers have a responsibility to give consumers comfort that their data will be secure and confidential. Patients want to know that their data is embedded in systems where their information is encrypted, and subject to ongoing and rigorous analytics testing to allow for early detection of unusual behaviour, patterns and breaches.

Traditionally, clinicians have had more access to patient medical records and information than patients have had themselves. But expectations are shifting. As the demand for personal health data is only likely to grow it will be important to enable consumers to not only better manage their treatments, but also make more informed choices about providers and prevention measures.

Trust will also depend upon medical information being kept accurate, current and available so that it’s accessible to patients, clinicians and carers. As a bonus, if this can be achieved, then data and predictive techniques can be applied to provide more proactive healthcare strategies. For instance, care models can be automatically modified and/or created based on machine learning and AI. For patients and clinicians to benefit fully from this, multidisciplinary teams will need to be highly digitally literate to achieve better outcomes for all users in the journey.

Virtual health decisions will leave a lasting legacy

Now is a pivotal time for healthcare institutions. To thrive in the future, organisations must ensure that virtual health evolves in line with the needs and expectations of clinicians and patients.

From here on, trust and engagement will only grow if user experience is consistently exceptional. Outcomes will then flow on from that in the form of quality and safety, efficiency and cost – regardless of the maturity of an organisation’s virtual health capability. Such is the power and potential of an experience-led approach.

And, along the way, the wisecracks about handwriting might just become a thing of the past.


Find out how you can address systemic challenges and build a virtual health future with our Virtual Health team.

 

Contributor

India Hardy

India is a partner and the virtual health leader at PwC Australia.

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Alex Denison

Alex is a director in PwC Australia’s Digital Health Consulting team.

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Dr Nicholas Hann

Nicholas is a manager in PwC Australia’s Healthcare Consulting team.

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