Health care coordination (whether in the form of a human member of a care team or as a digital or mobile service) is quickly emerging as a competitive advantage for health systems everywhere.
Helping people manage the complexity of different care specialties or navigate the web of payments and reimbursements is an obvious way to deliver higher customer satisfaction and drive higher revenue. In addition, many studies show that care coordination can be a factor in delivering better long-term health outcomes, which is important as systems begin to take on responsibility for population health management.
That’s why demand for skilled care coordinators continues to grow and investment in technological tools and platforms is projected to rise. Yet, our experience in implementing both human and digital care coordination has shown us that the biggest barriers to implementation aren’t in securing care coordination, but rather in implementing it. Getting care coordination right fundamentally challenges much of the conventional health care delivery wisdom. It forces providers and insurers to think and behave quite differently.
We see four key shifts that health systems must make as they think about care coordination:
1. Dramatically broaden your “patient” experience journey:
Patient journey mapping is only just beginning to be applied in many health care systems. So far, every model we’ve seen has been far too narrow. Most begin when patients experience a problem and conclude with a successful treatment. But, to be truly effective, care coordinators need to engage way before problems arise and stay connected to patients long after the traditional treatments are over. Extending the patient journey map allows systems and care coordinators to better fit care into the larger context of a patient’s life.
2. Maximize engagement instead of minimizing friction:
While most health care experiences are designed around moving people through as quickly, seamlessly and efficiently as possible, we’ve learned that that’s not always the experience people want. Most health care interactions raise a host of patient questions that often go unanswered or for which they have find answers elsewhere. Successful care coordination is also about understanding that more engagement with patients is often what’s actually required to help patients get the most out of their experiences.
3. Turn patients and providers into partners:
Successful care journeys are collaborations, not procedures merely “done to” patients. Aligning care teams and patients around the same goals and using technology to create more transparency and sharing of information between all parties is crucial to enabling smoother, more connected health care experiences. This requires a shift in the traditional doctor/patient dynamic, but also empowers patients to take a more active role in their care. And when patients are more involved in their own choices and care, the results of that care are often improved.
4. Adopt a membership mindset, not a retail one:
While health care systems often talk about wellness and proactive care, their mental models are based around transactional, one-time interactions with patients. Instead, we think membership companies like Netflix or American Express are better mentors for health care systems. Rather than serving a lot customers every now and then, these companies are built around developing long-term relationships and maximizing lifetime value for every customer. In our work on loyalty programs for several blue-chip brands like these, we’ve identified a clear set of best practices – practices that are transferrable to health care and which greatly improve the implementation of care coordination.
Ultimately, care coordination isn’t just a new role or tool.
It’s an organization-wide commitment to becoming customer-oriented. This is a huge shift for most providers, which have historically been built around their physicians. And this shift has to be taken into account when implementing care coordination, lest coordinators become just an outlet for overflow, rather than a powerful way to manage customer experiences.
While there’s no shortage of rhetoric within the health care industry around transformation, true action is still rare. That means health care systems who are able to confront the functional and cultural challenges of adopting care coordination will reap the rewards for many years to come.