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The State of Patient Access (Experian’s 2023 Report)

On today’s episode, Jenny is coming to you solo to discuss the recently released Experian State of Patient Access Report. The report is based on surveys of both patients and healthcare providers across the country, exploring their views on access to care over a three-year period. The report identifies five key aspects of patient access and reveals that both patients and providers agree that access to care has either remained the same or worsened in the past year but for different reasons. Patients desire a streamlined scheduling experience, while providers grapple with staffing shortages and care cost challenges. Jenny emphasizes the need for well-integrated digital solutions throughout the patient journey and encourages marketers to collaborate with operations teams to optimize the patient experience. She also highlights the importance of compliance in the rapidly evolving healthcare landscape and the critical role marketing plays in enhancing patient and provider experiences.

Access the State of Patient Access Report here.

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Jenny: [00:00:00] Hi friends. Welcome to today’s episode of We Are Marketing Happy, A Healthcare Marketing Podcast. My name is Jenny Bristow and I am the CEO and Founder of Hedy & Hopp. We are a full service, fully healthcare marketing agency, and I’m on today to talk about Experian’s “State of Patient Access Report.” So it was just released and there’s a lot of really interesting things.

They surveyed both patients and providers across the country. They really understand the three year trajectory of how both groups are feeling about the state of access to care. And so I wanted to hop on and just share a little bit of what the report shared. I’m going to put a link in the show notes for you to go download the report yourself to be able to digest the entire report, but I wanted to share.

So first, there are five different things that Experian states as them, their definition of [00:01:00] patient access. And it’s really interesting because here at Hedy & Hopp, whenever we talk about being really passionate about improving patient’s access to care, typically we’re thinking about front-end touchpoints, right? 

So whenever they’re able to find a provider online, schedule an appointment online, and really understand the care that they’re going to receive. Experian really expands that to five distinct areas which absolutely makes sense from a patient’s perspective, but I wanted to talk about those for a little bit.

So the first one is what we would expect, right? Like scheduling an appointment. The second is pre-registration and registration. Third is coverage verification and cost of care estimates, which is a really hot topic in the healthcare space. Pre-care payment services. And then, of course, the final is patient communication.

So one of the really interesting things is that overall, both patients and providers are saying that access to care is the same or worse as it was 12 months ago, but for different reasons. [00:02:00] So patients really want that right time, right provider scheduling experience. Make it easy, right?

It’s really interesting on one page of the report, it actually talks about how, let me pull it up. It talks about how the access to scheduling appointments online is actually worse than it was a year ago. So it seems as though quite a few providers actually added that functionality during COVID.

And then some of them have actually pulled back on the prioritization of that. Again, resources and budgets are tight. So we understand, you know, from an operational perspective, how that could happen, but it definitely isn’t meeting patients where they are and what they’re expecting. But, at the same time, providers feel the pain when it comes to staffing shortages, which really exacerbates that patient access pain point, right?

Because it results in scheduling delays. Taking longer to get that first scheduled appointment to happen. And then of course, challenges around care cost estimates. So again, that really makes sense is what we’re hearing from [00:03:00] providers is they really want to focus on care and that confusion or back and forth around costs is not really where they, or their administrative team, wants to spend their limited energy.

And so at the end of the day, all of this is really putting a big need and pressure on well-integrated digital solutions throughout the patient journey, right? It’s not just the front-end. It’s not just that digital front door that folks talk about all of the time of getting patients in the door the first time. It’s really thinking about everything from finding a provider, scheduling an appointment, receiving a cost estimate.

The bar is really low. So much that even, like, a positive payment experience can be an affinity driver, which is mind blowing, right? Making it easy for somebody to give you money results in them wanting to come back and see you again versus going and choosing another provider. Kind of mind blowing, but really marketers should lean in to work with these operation teams whenever you’re mapping out the patient experience.

I mean, one of the things whenever we [00:04:00] have assisted with Epic integrations, for example, is really making sure that it’s a much broader perspective than just marketing dollars and service line prioritization, but really thinking about how we can optimize that patient experience. So for example, with some clients we’ve had to implement feedback loops.

So if we’re promoting a specific service line or perhaps promoting a new provider within the practice, really understanding once their schedule is full and you’re looking out more than so many weeks in advance to pull back on that budget, so you’re not sending folks to a dissatisfying landing page where they’re not seeing appointments for two plus months out.

That’s clearly a negative patient experience, so it needs to be a much broader conversation to be able to make sure that we’re matching patient expectations along with provider availability. So what, right? Like, so what this report is really helpful to be able to see the state of the state and be able to see what positive [00:05:00] impact…

I put that in really heavy air quotes, because it’s difficult to think about anything positive coming out of COVID, but it really did force providers and systems to lean into telehealth and lead in to online patient portals. So that is seen as an increase over the last three years, but at the same time, there’s been a lot of other things that have increased from a negative perspective that the report talks about.

So there are three key things that are the Hedy & Hopp “So what?” about this report. Let’s talk about it. The first is making sure that marketing has a seat at the cross functional table. So as these decisions are being made from a budgeting and technology perspective, make sure marketing is sitting at that conversation and really being involved.

We need to think about how patients are experiencing care. We need to map out the entire patient journey. So if you are currently racing to redo your website, stand up telehealth, uh, mobile app, whatever, pause to map out that patient journey and understand how it fits in and the overall impact and messaging [00:06:00] modifications that need to be made across that entire journey.

The other thing that we’re seeing is we’re actually seeing marketing kind of either be labeled in a different way or have different functions kind of collaborate. So you see like patient experience teams and just a little bit of modifications around the language of marketing. And I think this is a really positive thing, right?

Cause we, as a function, are much bigger than just marketing, but it’s definitely something we’re seeing. Number two, map out the entire patient experience, whether you’re trying to improve the provider’s experience or the patient’s experience at the end of the day, the patient is really the one that we need to impact.

So if the provider is having hiccups, first map out that patient experience and figure out how the provider can weave in and out in a way that’s positive for the patient, because if you fix something for the provider, but end up making it negative accidentally for the patient because you weren’t thinking holistically,

you’re going to have a different problem on your hands 6 months [00:07:00] out. And then finally, please be compliant. I have to remind you all again. We are not a privacy agency. We are a full service, fully healthcare agency. We do everything, but we are talking so much about privacy and compliance right now because it is changing so quickly.

The sands are shifting beneath our feet and especially if we’re thinking about telehealth and all of these different levers that you can pull to improve or modify the patient experience, you’re going to run into compliance issues. So please make sure you’re working with your legal and compliance teams or a group like Hedy & Hopp that can really help make sure you’re setting things up in a way that is safe in both the short and the long term and you’re really thinking about your entire tech stack and light of the new guidelines.

So with that, I’m going to put a link to the report in the show notes. You can read it and download it. It’s a relatively short report. I think it’s under 10 pages and [00:08:00] it’s absolutely worth the read. I think the cross section of the size of the respondents is really helpful to feel confident in the results.

And thank you Experian for your work. Thank you for joining in today on another episode of We Are, Marketing Happy and we’ll see you soon.



About the Author

Jenny Bristow is the CEO and Founder of Hedy & Hopp. Prior to starting Hedy & Hopp, Jenny launched, grew and sold a digital agency in Seattle and worked at Amazon. She was named one of St. Louis Business Journal’s 30 under 30, won a Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 and speaks regularly at healthcare marketing industry events.

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