Key tactics in a successful digital healthcare strategy

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By Rikin Patel

The healthcare industry is striving to meet the needs of today’s digital consumer with a patient-driven care approach. But most healthcare organizations lag well behind other industries when it comes to using digital channels to connect to their audience. To further their digital journey and embrace a truly patient-centric approach to care, hospitals and other healthcare organizations would do well to study other industries and companies that lead the way in consumer engagement.

In a 2017 article, Harvard Business Review (HBR) proposed several tactics that leaders in digital strategies have successfully deployed. But what would these look like in healthcare? Let’s consider several of these in the context of patient-driven care.

How does digital serve different patient segments?

The HBR article mentions different ways to deepen the engagement with the consumer. To achieve this objective and thrive in the digital age, healthcare organizations need to demonstrate they understand their patient population’s preferences with a “know me and show me that you know me” approach. Knowing the patient is, at least in part, about knowing their preferred methods of communication and building a digital interaction model around that preference.

For example, if a patient wants to communicate via WhatsApp messages, the healthcare organization needs to determine how to support this communication method with patients. Such interaction will require a different approach to patient identity verification than the traditional phone-based verification.

Adopt the right digital channels

In the HBR article, the authors note that a direct-to-consumer initiative can involve one or many platforms. An example of a company that has excelled in its digital strategy is Procter & Gamble, which has built a social media profile for each of its leading brands, using sites such as Instagram and Facebook to tap into different audiences. In today’s patient-centered care environment, a progressive hospital should have a similar brand presence based on the quality of care its clinicians provide.

That brings up the question: What role do physicians play in building and maintaining a hospital’s brand and connecting with the patient population? For example, a patient who breaks a bone will want to know whether the orthopedic surgeon in a local hospital has experience with that type of injury. If the hospital is actively sharing information through its social media channels about postsurgical recovery, it has created a model to engage the population.

The problem healthcare is dealing with is that the interaction model remains old school, where the doctor engages with patients only in person or perhaps by phone. But many younger patients want and expect to interact through other platforms, whether text or social media platforms. While this is quite a dramatic change for many doctors — who do not typically engage patients on social media — today’s consumers or patients may expect a more digital experience. For the brand or hospital to thrive, it will need to find ways to connect with those patients in different ways.

Add value to the patient

As the HBR article notes, consumers need a reason to tune in. In healthcare, that means thinking about the strategies a hospital should adopt to get the local patient population to “tune in.” For example, when children are admitted to a hospital, providing them with gaming consoles could go a long way toward improving their hospital experience. So, first hospitals need to show that they know their patients; then they need to exceed patient expectations with experiences that demonstrate true patient-centricity.

Look outside the industry

Healthcare is unlike the consumer industry in that no one chooses to engage with it, because no one chooses to be sick. However, to engage today’s patients, hospitals need to look beyond the healthcare industry to drive a better, more seamless experience for their patients.

For example, hospitals may require patients to fill out multiple forms, often repeating the same information over and over. Imagine if instead a hospital offered a kiosk where the patient could swipe his or her credit card, which would alert the hospital system to who that patient is, what forms had already been filled out and what information was still required. It could even go a step further and offer directions to the patient. This is what now happens in airports, where passengers can check in their baggage from a kiosk rather than joining a long line.

Adopting advanced digital technologies to engage patients — based on knowledge about the patient population gathered from good analytics — and improve the healthcare experience will differentiate hospitals and help them thrive in a competitive environment.


Rikin Patel is a DXC Technologist with 25 years of diverse experience in Information Technology.  He serves as the Chief Technologist for DXC’s Americas Healthcare & Life Sciences and is a member of the Office of the CTO. Rikin is responsible for building key client relationships, advising senior leadership on technology trends, and providing thought leadership to effectively grow client and DXC business.

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