Shopping for healthcare online? Why health systems should care about goods

As Americans shop online for the holidays, patients should have the convenience they need, too.

Consumers today are experts at online shopping.

Whether you’re buying clothing, electronics, furniture, or almost anything else, online stores allow you to sort items and apply filters to find the exact products you need. The site may also recommend items it thinks you’ll like, based on purchase history or other criteria. Once you find what you want, you can add it to your cart and check out with just a few clicks.

If online shopping can be so streamlined and simple, yet personalized to individual preferences, why not care? By improving e-commerce capabilities in healthcare, it can.

Why Healthcare Needs E-Commerce

How was your experience the last time you tried to schedule an appointment with a doctor?

Chances are, it wasn’t as easy as the last time you tried to buy a new shirt online.

You may have visited several different sites before finding the right site for scheduling, or you may have been directed to call the office and inevitably put on hold for a long period of time. You may even find a provider you want to see, only to find they don’t have any appointments available.

This is the current state of appointment scheduling, and it’s incredibly frustrating. To simplify this process and optimize access to care, health systems need to make care options, providers, and appointment times more easily discoverable, like your favorite online retailer.

Merchandising is the next frontier in healthcare, and healthcare systems need to tap into it to combat the growing threats in the industry.

Envisioning E-Commerce in Healthcare

Using the same technology as online retailers, searching for care will be as easy as browsing your favorite store, and appointment scheduling will look like a digital storefront.

The patient can begin their journey by searching on any search engine or website including the digital front door of the health system. For example, if searching on Google, the e-commerce technology will route patients and traffic to the health system’s booking site.

The platform then automatically filters search results based on patient intent and need input and displays real-time availability for care options best suited to their needs. The interface also shows additional information such as the providers’ specifications – just like you would see the details of a product you’re considering buying. Providers that aren’t suitable or are unavailable aren’t shown at all, so patients don’t waste their time searching for options that aren’t relevant.

With all this personalized information, patients can feel confident that they are finding the best possible care option for them. Once the patient identifies the best provider, location and time, they can book an appointment in just a few clicks. The whole process is so seamless that, ideally, care finds the patient rather than the patient finding it.

Internal research found that 80% of patients who start the process of booking an appointment abandon it before completing it – missing out on vital and potentially life-saving care. By simplifying the process, health systems can greatly reduce this alarming number and ensure that all patients receive the care they need.

Why Health System Officials Should Embrace E-Commerce

Merchandising healthcare may sound controversial. You may worry that taking the e-commerce approach will make the experience more impersonal and transactional, but it isn’t.

Merchandising can make care more accessible and custom-tailored by allowing patients to find exactly what they want and need. Healthcare is undergoing massive change, and patients now expect to seek and receive care with ease and convenience. Merchandising is the best way to deliver these experiences that will result in the highest patient satisfaction.

Health systems will also greatly benefit from merchandising. Turning Care Discovery into a storefront will enable the system to better capture, convert and retain patients, which will drive more revenue down the road. A healthcare system that implemented better e-commerce saw a 121% conversion lift, a 39% increase in bookings, and 30% more net new patients while also significantly reducing the cost of providing care.

Our current appointment scheduling platforms are no longer sufficient. It’s time for health systems to engage with the model of e-commerce with which online retailers have found so much success.

Merchandising is nothing to be afraid of – it’s just about getting things to consumers more intelligently and effectively – and it benefits both the health system and the patient.

Derek Street is the founder, CEO and president of DexCare, a data-driven intelligence company focused on healthcare access.

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