Practitioners Guide to Understanding The Patient Journey

by Mercy Berchie February 18, 2020
The Patient Journey

A focus on delivering the best customer experience is the only way to attract and retain customers, including healthcare consumers. This makes understanding your patient journey important to you in order to streamline your services to deliver the best value to them.

A study in Ghana revealed a positive relationship between service quality and customer satisfaction in healthcare practices. Again, the study revealed a positive relationship between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty in healthcare practice.

As people become more health-conscious, they look out for the healthcare practices that offer them the best value for their investment.

Understanding your patient journey will give you more insights into their pain points, their interests, and their expectations. This will help you put ineffective strategies to make your healthcare facility give the best support to meet their health needs.

Moreover, as patients’ needs keep changing with the demands of technology and other factors such as aging, you need an effective comprehension of your patient’s journey to help you deliver the best value to them.

By the time you are done reading this article, you would understand what the patient journey is and the stages involved in the journey.

You will also learn how to use an understanding of your patient journey to devise marketing strategies for your healthcare practice.


What is the patient’s journey?

The patient journey involves the series of steps a patient goes through in seeking healthcare.

According to Odoro, the Patient Journey can be defined as the ongoing sequence of care events that a patient follows from the point of access into the health system, continuing towards diagnosis and care and ending in outpatient care.

The patient journey typically reveals the multi-stages and the various tools that are used in each stage by your patients. These tools and channels are used in searching for the right information and treatment regarding their health. The enhanced use of digital technology makes the patient journey far more complex. 

Mapping out a clear patient journey will help you identify the gaps that exist between you and your patients. This insight will help you to meet their expectations.

An understanding of your patient journey will help increase your engagement with your patients. It will also enable you to give them the support they need from you.


Steps in the patient journey 

The patient journey involves five stages. Each of these stages has peculiar objectives, needs, and tools/ channels. A comprehensive understanding of each of these stages will help you to modify your healthcare delivery approach to meet your patients’ needs.

Awareness:

this is the stage the patient becomes aware of a condition either through experiencing symptoms or from someone else.

In this stage, a patient may leverage digital technology to get more information about a disease or condition. They might have the symptoms or they might have heard about it from friends and family. Or they might want more information on the symptoms they are experiencing. 

For example, a person who is experiencing eye symptoms may decide to search for the causes of the symptoms on the internet.

their search, they hope to understand the conditions that may cause the symptoms they are experiencing.

Another example would be a person who hears their relative has glaucoma. This patient goes to search for more information about glaucoma from the internet.

In this particular stage, an online presence is crucial to meeting the patient’s need for information regarding their health. The right information will enable them to take the right precautions and then continue to the next stage of the journey.

Interest/ contact:

In this stage, the patient is aware of their need to get in touch with a healthcare provider based on the information they got regarding their health.

This is also the patient’s initial contact with the health system. They may call to book an appointment or schedule a visit on your website. Some might use your contact form to send an email to you to get more information about when they can visit.

Understanding this stage helps you to incorporate the necessary tools to deliver the best customer experience to your patients as they decide to visit you.

Care/ Diagnosis

This stage involves all the steps they go through in your clinic from meeting the physician, going for tests, and making a final diagnosis of their condition.

This stage is a crucial stage, and usually, this is where most patient experience occurs.

Understanding this stage will help you to remove the barriers that patients usually face when they go to a healthcare facility.

Treatment

This is when a clear treatment plan is drawn for the patient. It usually involves using test results and interaction with the patient to provide the best treatment.

Ongoing care

This refers to the series of management, self-care, lifestyle modifications, follow-ups, and patient care between visits.

This is important to ensure patient engagement with the system to deliver the right service and care to them.

Particularly, this stage is crucial in patient retention. More patients prefer they receive updates about their health status from their healthcare providers.

Patients appreciate it when you send them preventive health tips to help them manage their health. This creates an increased satisfaction with your service and resultant patient retention.


Importance of understanding the patient journey

When you understand your patient journey, it enables you to put the right structures that meet the needs and expectations of your patients. This, in turn, fosters great patient experiences and satisfaction with your overall healthcare system.

There are three major benefits that come from understanding your patient journey:

Understanding of patient experiences

The patient journey gives you an insight into your patients’ experiences with your healthcare delivery.

When you understand how they feel, it gives you a further understanding of how they want to feel. This helps you to identify the gaps that may cause bad patient experiences. Ultimately, this ensures that you give the best treatment to your patients.

It also helps you to provide the right information that is relevant at each stage of their journey.

For example, displaying the cost of surgery on your website may scare potential patients and cause them to look elsewhere or never seek treatment.

However, as the journey proceeds, you would be able to give the right information at the right time to ensure that you provide the needed care to every patient.

For example, understanding your patient’s journey may reveal to you some unpleasant experiences they may be having. These could be long waiting times, time constraints on their side, bad customer service, etc.

Patient marketing insights

The patient journey is a complex journey. It involves many stages that use different channels.

When you accurately understand and map your patient journey, you can get rich insights into the best marketing strategies to employ at each stage of the journey.

When you understand the channels they use, it motivates your campaigns to be more strategic.

Personalization

Even though patients’ expectation for a healthcare system is different, they are nonetheless expectant of quality service that meets their needs.

Personalization ensures your services and products are tailored uniquely to your patients. This means that when they encounter your service at any stage of their journey, it feels as though the whole process was thought through with them in mind.

To deliver a personalized experience, you need to understand patients based on specific metrics. These metrics include age, pain points, symptoms, career, and behavioral factors. This will help you successfully put in measures and strategies that are relevant to each individual.

A great patient journey understanding enables you to provide services that are personalized to your patients to enhance their experience.

Once patients are satisfied with their experience, you can be sure they will come back. How to use your patient journey for your healthcare practice.

As you have seen already, mapping your patient’s journey will enable you to provide the right products and services that solve a need they have. 

An effective patient map will yield the required understanding when you have an understanding of your patient population.

You need to understand your patient right from scratch to be able to effectively draw a map for their journey.

When you understand your patients by specifics such as age, conditions, and others, it makes it easier to eliminate the barriers that may obstruct the journey and help you to focus on the right measures to take.

Here are the stages to use to enhance your patient’s experience using their journey.


Have a clear patient journey map

A patient journey map helps you to understand the various stages your patient goes through.

This will help you identify gaps in your service and fill them. It will also help you to determine their touchpoints with your healthcare delivery system that drive engagements with your brand.

Identify the tools at each stage of the journey

Each stage of contact with the healthcare system involves tools that the patients use.

You need to understand the multi-channels they use to access your healthcare service.

This is important to help you deliver effective campaigns for all your patient outreaches. Understanding this will enable you to deliver the right content and resources that are relevant to the patient at each stage of the journey.

Identify the likely challenges patients are likely to face in each stage

For you to effectively ensure patient engagement with your practice, you need an acute understanding of the various challenges they face at each stage of the journey.

For example, work schedules may prevent someone to show up for an appointment. Having a system that reminds them to set another appointment will help you retain your patient. 

Understanding their challenges with the health system will give you an insight into their pain points and help you to address them.

For example, if you realize that certain days work well for mothers to bring their kids for screening, you can incorporate that into your healthcare strategies. Success in marketing belongs to those who are willing to give flexibility a shot.

Identify where your practice falls short in meeting the patient’s challenges

After identifying the challenges your patients face in each stage of their journey, you need to address them. Or you have to provide enhancements to your already existent processes and procedures.

A thorough analysis of your existing strategies might reveal where your service falls short, and then help you to make up for them.

For example, you might realize that you don’t have regular content on your digital platforms that educate or informs patients.

This will cause you to lose out on patients in the first stage of their journey. You might also discover that you don’t have software that enables you to track patient activities on your websites. This lack deprives you of the opportunity to discover their real intentions when they visit your site.

Continuously review and update the customer experience along their journey

The channels that are used to contact you are constantly changing. This means that if you want to stay relevant to your patients, you have to constantly review the system and processes to ensure that the patient gets the best experience.

Success in healthcare marketing can be a great success when you understand your patient’s journey.


Conclusion

We are in a time where patients continue to pursue the right care on the basis of value. Adapting your structures and strategies to ensure they provide value to them will give you the upper hand always.

Understanding your patient journey will help you to understand patient experiences and make them better. It will give you insight into your marketing and help you personalize your services to meet varying patients’ needs.

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