Tech’s potential in curbing healthcare burnout and boosting the consumer experience

Today patients are moving into the driver’s seat of their care. The digitization of health and high-deductible health plans has continued to push the dialog around the consumerization of care. This, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, exposed patients to different modalities of care. 

So what’s next for the patient experience? MobiHealthNews asked Banner Health’s customer experience channels VP, Christen Castellano, about the consumerization of healthcare ahead of her presentation at HIMSS22. 

MobiHealthNews: How do you think the consumerization of healthcare is changing the expectations of traditional providers?

Castellano: Since I am not a provider, I asked a few of our physicians, and here’s what I learned. Most of our physicians are in geographies where we’ve always had competition. So, in that way, consumerism has always been a part of healthcare from the provider’s perspective. 

Whether it was having a friendly and knowledgeable nurse, gaining a reputation as “the best doctor” in town, or developing relationships with a referral base, there’s always been a rudimentary understanding that patients have a choice and will exercise that choice if they don’t feel they are getting value for their dollar. This has only increased with the prominence of high-deductible health plans.

What has had a greater impact on physician expectation is the proliferation of care-delivery options. This has come in many forms: employers directly contracting with provider entities, telehealth capabilities and care-delivery organizations focusing on small population subsets like Medicare Advantage, etc.

This proliferation of care-delivery options has created more choice for both patients and physicians/providers. More choice has resulted in the perception that the physician-patient relationship, especially in the primary care arena, is more fungible than it has ever been.

These shifts, with many other digital forces both in and out of healthcare, have resulted in physicians redefining what patient experience means to them. There is now a broader understanding of what patients want – an omni-channel customer experience that is convenient, consistent, coordinated and compassionate – and at a low cost. 

Providers need to solve patients’ issues (help heal) but also provide a positive experience to ensure the patients want to return. Pre-visit, visit and post-visit interactions need to be consumer-centric: [to be] easy, demonstrate care and exceed customer expectations to support brand loyalty.

MobiHealthNews: Who needs to be at the table when creating new digital tools? 

Castellano: It takes a multidisciplinary approach to ensure digital tools are accurate and easy for consumers – and accurate and easy for employees.

  • Physicians. Access to care, scheduling accuracy and patient expectations are all impacted by digital tools, so physicians are crucial to developing the pathways for access to care before it is digitized. Our model is built with our clinical teams, not for our clinical teams – and that approach has worked best.
  • Contact center and CX leaders. Contact centers are the benefactors of any system confusion, because confusion typically results in a phone call. To ensure the digital tools optimize self-serve and reduce call volume, these leaders should be involved in the logistics and calls to action that are enabled by the tools. Also doing the right thing is different from doing the right thing at scale. … 
  • Patients of different demographics (gender, age [and] race). Cultural differences need to be considered when developing digital capabilities and crafting the best-fit omni-channel strategy for an organization and the communities served.
  • Customers at different life cycle points. The technology enables the experience, so it is an integral part of the development. Sometimes patients are too ill or too weary and simply need agent-assisted service. At other times the same patient for a different transaction may choose self-serve.

MobiHealthNews: How has COVID-19 changed the consumer experience?

Castellano: The pandemic was the ultimate business stress-test. This means that customer expectations have heightened the opportunities and the strengths of digital capabilities to enable a frictionless experience.

Consumers have more quickly adapted to telehealth and experiences eliminating people interaction. Portal usage, app usage and online scheduling have all increased to schedule appointments, cancel and reschedule appointments, check results, and order meals when in the hospital, etc. 

Content and messaging around COVID-19 changes rapidly. Consumers use websites, blogs and other social media to stay informed. Our research indicates that consumers trust health systems for accurate information, so we have taken an omni-channel approach to be the “wise guide” for our consumers using these digital tools. 

But I can tell you what hasn’t changed. What hasn’t changed is the fact that a quality and safety-first experience remains a must for consumers, healthcare providers, patients and health systems.

MobiHealthNews: Do you think tech can help mitigate burnout? How?

Castellano: Yes, successful digitization requires standardization and ease of use. That combination can be useful in mitigating burnout for:

  • Physicians and other healthcare providers. It is almost universal now that physicians rate work-life balance as one of the top desires or expectations that they have from their careers. Telemedicine offers tremendous benefits to some patients, and it also introduces an option of working in a non-office environment for physicians and providers. So, as the choice of telemedicine grows for consumers, the technology may offer some relief to physicians and providers.
  • Phone agents. Digital tools can shift customer demand from voice to self-service (such as scheduling, appointments, canceling and rescheduling appointments, accessing test results on the portal, etc.). Other digital capabilities, such as CRM [customer relationship management] and evidence-based scheduling, provide tools to agents to aim towards first call resolution. Digital capabilities to optimize performance in a work-from-home staffing setting may also reduce burnout for phone agents as [they help] better manage the variety, volume and velocity of information gathered on calls.
  • Clinical teams. Some of the tools that we developed in the B2C space are now being repurposed and used in the B2B space. This offers clinical teams (like our ED staff) a quick and easy tool to get patients to the right place, at the right time, for the right care. The easier administrative burden can also reduce burnout for clinical team members.

The HIMSS22 session “Customer Experience 2.0: Building Beyond Digital Foundations” will take place on Thursday, March 17, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Orange County Convention Center W303A.


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