Mapping the overarching patient journey through the Australian healthcare system and understanding the practical implications of the changing patient expectations was discussed by a panel of experts at the CommBank Future of Health conference held on 13 November 2018. The experts included representatives of peak healthcare bodies, experienced practitioners and senior executives within healthcare organisations.
In the healthcare industry, the importance of the patient experience is often discussed in the context of specific segments of the overall healthcare system. But as technology and access to data is enabling better connectivity within the health system, there is the expectation of an enhanced patient experience across the continuum of care.
The panel discussion further explored the multi-faceted nature of the patient experience, including the implications of patients taking a more active role within the health system, patient empowerment through better access to information, and a need to view the patient experience as just one part of the broader objectives of healthcare.
While a number of themes were discussed on the day, some highlights include:
Patients taking the lead
- While patients value an experience that delivers strong clinical outcomes, patients are now seen as customers and payers who want to be able to easily navigate the health system just as they would any other service.
- Today’s patients are seeking access to services such as non-emergency surgery and mental health care when and where they need it. Healthcare providers on the panel also highlighted that many patients also desire one fully trained person to manage their care and the ability to communicate with them around the clock.
Enabling informed patient decision-making
- Beyond developing ease of access to healthcare services, providing transparency around costs and personal health information is a crucial part of enhancing the patient experience across the Australian healthcare system.
- This includes enabling patients to make informed decisions around procedures and interventions, as well as providing informed financial consent for costs.
- Providers at the conference also suggested that while patients increasingly desire online access to more information about providers such as specialists, associated cost and quality, they also want to take that information and discuss it with their GP.
The overarching aims of the healthcare system
- In today’s competitive environment, many providers agree that a better patient experience will provide a competitive edge. However, providers need to think about the patient experience in the context of the higher-level objectives of the health system, not in isolation.
- Panellists emphasised the importance of the quadruple objective of healthcare system - improved patient experience, improved population outcomes, sustainable costs and improved provider experience.
These views highlight the importance of the varying elements that comprise the patient experience, but more importantly talk to those factors that present uniform challenges across the system as empowered patients seek to more actively manage their own health and wellbeing.