Rapid Digital Transformation in Healthcare – the “new normal” – Part 1

As the experts are predicting, the coronavirus pandemic will change the majority of businesses and healthcare is clearly one of the sectors where it will be felt most.

UK Private healthcare, will go through a period of dramatic change to discover what the “new normal” looks and feels like. The clinics and healthcare businesses that had ‘digital healthcare’ on their agendas prior to the pandemic are now talking about “rapid digital transformation” and “pivoting”, phrases that wouldn’t have been used or heard of just a few months ago.

But “rapid digital transformation” isn’t as easy as just telling your patients that you’re now offering telephone & video consultations and that they can buy products online via your new e-commerce shop.

While you’re going through this period of change, here are some important considerations to talk through with your partners and board members:

  1. Telemedicine won’t work for everyone

While everyone is talking about the “new normal”, what mustn’t be forgotten is why patients seek out private medicine in the first place and why there is a need for clinicians to engage with potential and existing patients.

In secondary care e.g. that covered by Private Medical Insurance (PMI), patients are either being referred or self-referring because they have a problem that needs to be investigated, diagnosed, and treated. In the majority of cases, these patients will still need to be seen face to face by a doctor or clinician because some sort of clinical examination will be required. Telemedicine may not be a suitable option to assist with the diagnosis and ensure that appropriate investigations are booked.

Telemedicine and video consultations may work well for follow-up consultations and discussion of results but it is likely that a diagnosis such as cancer will require face to face consultations. This is vital to ensure that patients receive the appropriate level of support and access to immediate nurse/counselling support provided by the clinic or consultant.

  1. Telemedicine is changing your Value Proposition

 It’s relatively simple to set-up a series of Skype or Zoom accounts, update your website and inform your clinicians, patient care team and patients that you’re now offering telemedicine or video/phone consultations instead of face to face.

The mistake that many clinics and consultants make is that by going through this process, you have fundamentally changed the value proposition to the patient and their perception of value will shift significantly. In this interim phase, patients may accept a short-term workaround or “fix”, but you need to consider the long-term implications that this decision will have for the health of your clinic or business.

  1. Perception is everything – put Patient Experience top of your list

Patients may be more than happy to part with several hundred pounds for a 30-60 min appointment at your prestigious clinic in Harley Street because their perception of value will have come the overall ‘experience’. This will have been made up from the actual appointment with the clinician, the large consultation room with high ceilings, the ambience of the clinic, the warm greeting and fresh coffee offered on arrival etc.

Once you move your consultations to video or the phone, the majority of the elements that make up the ‘experience wrapper’ have been removed. What you have left is the time with the doctor or clinician on the phone or video while they’re at home on your sofa or dining table. Fundamentally, this time is the service that your patients are paying for but the point here is that the overall experience has changed and you may find that patients are no longer happy to pay the same amount for what they perceive as a stripped back service.

But other professions such as lawyers and accountants charge the same for office-based work and face to face client meetings so why shouldn’t medicine be the same? Long term, it will be what your patients & customers want and need that wins out and clinicians, practitioners and healthcare businesses will need to respond accordingly.

Need help with digital transformation?

The good news is there is a way to translate the essence of your clinic and brand experience in a digital format, and just like the coffee in the waiting room, there are equivalent online features and benefits that will make the patient feel like you’ve gone the extra mile.

If you’re in the middle of or planning the digital transformation of your healthcare business or clinic, get in touch with us first. We provide a free 60-min business ‘health check’ and can help guide you through some of the key steps you should be thinking about.

Parts 2 & 3 of this post will cover the importance of mapping the patient journey, selecting the right technology partners and developing a marketing and pricing strategy.