Is Healthcare Ready for a Consumer-Centric Approach?

Imagine if a retailer operated like healthcare.

“I’m sorry sir, but you can’t just walk in and try on that suit, you’ll have to make an appointment by calling during our office hours.”

“I’m sorry son, but we’ve blocked all cell signals in our store and we don’t have WiFi. Please just sit on this hard plastic chair while you wait for your mom – which could be 5 minutes or 45, I don’t actually know.”

“That will be $80 for the dress, plus $25 for the salesperson who helped you open the change room door and $15 for restocking the clothes you didn’t want. Oh and we aren’t part of your shopping network so there’s a 25% additional surcharge.”

As consumers we would not tolerate this type of retail experience. We would take our business elsewhere. As patients, however, we have put up with the poor consumer experience for decades because there simply wasn’t a better alternative.

Thankfully that’s changing.

GoHealth Urgent Care operates urgent care centers in California, Connecticut, Missouri, Oregon and Washington. To the surprise and delight of patients, they offer a consumer-level experience. On the GoHealth website are a number of positive comments from patients, including this one:

“I have been here multiple times and EVERY time I have had an amazing experience! I work in the area so I have had to run in during a break or lunch hour and they are always knowledgeable, accommodating and helpful. I have always had my questions answered. I do the online check in, run in and I’m in and out… The online patient portal is awesome too…I wish I could use them as my primary care Dr I would switch immediately!”

GoHealth’s leadership has truly embraced being a consumer-centric organization. They designed their facilities without traditional waiting areas, opting instead for welcoming check-in desks and self-registration kiosks. GoHealth staff greet patients by name and even call patients to follow up after their visit. The entire team works hard to continually improve their operations in order to provide a superior healthcare experience.

Underpinning this experience is a robust technology infrastructure – a mixture of onsite high speed networks, cloud-based applications and collaboration tools. Everything needs to be fast, seamless and secure so that staff can focus on patients.

Because having the right technology infrastructure was so important, GoHealth partnered with Windstream Enterprise, a multi-billion dollar company that helps organizations with digital transformations through networking, communications and collaboration solutions.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tony Thomas – CEO of Windstream, Rehan Shah – Regional President at Windstream Enterprise and Dev Ashish – CIO of GoHealth Urgent Care to talk about being consumer-centered in healthcare.

There were several interesting points raised during our conversation.

Right at the start, Thomas cited increased healthcare competition as the primary driver for improved patient/consumer experience: “When you see clinics popping up at places like Walgreens…and you have every hospital opening their own urgent care facilities…and with disruption coming from telemedicine…how do you differentiate? It’s through a great patient experience.”

When viewed from this perspective, it shouldn’t be surprising that urgent care centers like GoHealth will need to provide a better experience in order to retain patients.

I really liked how Shah reframed the patient journey using a retail framework: (1) patient acquisition; (2) patient care; (3) patient retention and talking about the need to ensure the right technologies + processes are put in place to optimize the experience in each phase. Shah talked about the need for online appointment setting, online check-in, ping-back notifications when the doctor was ready, etc. Technologies we take for granted in the hospitality industry.

My favorite statement came from Ashish about making the GoHealth experience “effortless” not just for patients, but for their family members, the surrounding community and their own staff as well. By listening to the needs of all these stakeholders, GoHealth has been able to build a sustainable culture and business that is highly differentiated and that patients love.

Are we ready for a consumer-centric approach in healthcare? GoHealth and Windstream Enterprise are proving that we are.

Note: Windstream Enterprise is a Healthcare Scene sponsor. Check out their insightful take on this same conversation. 

About the author

Colin Hung

Colin Hung

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.