Constructing a continuum of trust in healthcare IT

Having spent the last 5 months firmly entrenched in the healthcare technology marketing sector, I’ve learned how important the word “continuum” is to patient care.

Most often, it’s used in the context of “continuum of care,” referring to a seamless patient experience, regardless of where care is being dispensed. But that continuum of care can only work if there is a corresponding continuum of trust between patients, providers and the technologies they use.

In many cases, technology has moved care from the hospital or doctor’s office to the recliner in the patient’s living room or a desk at their workplace. While it was difficult before to assure continuity within the confines of a healthcare institution, this new distribution of care creates massive challenges for the medical establishment.

So how does a healthcare organization create a reliable continuum of care as it loses control of its direct involvement with the customer/patient?

Needless to say, this trend increases the burden of responsibility on patients. They are now a critical, albeit unwitting, link in quality assurance. The change also has a big effect on communications strategies.

In speaking recently with executives at some of the most famous healthcare institutions in the world, I was not surprised to learn that compelling communications strategies form the bedrock of this continuum of care, whether service is offered within or outside the facility.

In fact one of their greatest wishes is for communications capabilities to be baked into the technologies they’re adopting to meet these demands, even when the technology is not meant to be a patient-facing marketing communications tool.

For example, ideally, electronic health record deployments would be able to take aggregated patient data and easily transform it into content marketing messages that could be sent to current and prospective patients.

In this model, the healthcare communications director would serve as the bridge between vendor and patient — their strategy to amplify the message about how cutting-edge technologies reliably create powerful patient outcomes.

In this continuum, trust in the technology vendor leads to trust in the provider, which leads to patient satisfaction, loyalty and, most importantly, advocacy.

As continuity of care becomes dispersed, the patient becomes an inseparable link in the chain to communicate trust and drive positive outcomes. Vendors and providers have the enormous challenge of assuring the reliability of patient-driven content and communication technologies, especially when care is dispersed in the home or via mobile device. And providers must build trust with patients to know they are really following doctor’s orders and not engaging in false reporting.

Most providers (and payers for that matter) are facing the enormous challenge of developing this totally new digital relationship with patients. Most are amazed at exactly how much data patients are willing to share when they trust the system and get understand they will get greater value — and outcomes — in return.

As population health and precision medicine strategies continue their meteoric rise, the healthcare industry will continue to rely on patient-supplied data as the basis for value-based care. But only by studying and leveraging that continuum of trust can these data insights be leveraged for reliable patient outcomes.


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