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Healthcare Insights: Creating a True Omnichannel Care Experience

Aligning providers’ built and digital care environments to personalize the healthcare experience.

As patient-consumers take on greater responsibility for their care, a holistic approach to aligning providers’ built and digital care environments is paramount to creating the personalized healthcare journey and elevated experience that patient-consumers are seeking.

As in many parts of their daily lives, consumers now expect virtual collaboration and technology to access convenient, efficient, and seamless healthcare regardless of care venue, in-person or virtually.

Aligning Care Environments

To accommodate this growing consumer shift, provider organizations have begun introducing new leadership roles focusing on experience, digital, transformation and innovation. While these roles have not traditionally been engaged as key stakeholders in capital facility projects, each is responsible for components necessary to enable healthcare consumers to experience unified, organization-wide touchpoints, both for in-person and virtual care.

To stay competitive and create an omnichannel experience, healthcare organizations will need to align the built and digital environments. Construction project teams should adopt a digital-inclusive mindset to accompany in-person care, which is key to a more robust patient experience within the built environment.

This means healthcare organizations must plan and build facilities that are flexible, integrative, and capable of blending with a digital, patient-centric care experience that focuses on high-quality, convenient access to providers, in other words, simplifying the path to care.

Carl Fleming

Healthcare Strategist

According to Pew Research Center, just a decade ago, only 35% of Americans owned a smartphone. Today, almost 90% of Americans own a smartphone and use it to navigate daily life—working, shopping, banking, etc. With consumer-facing technologies now commonplace, patients are increasingly shopping for healthcare experiences that align with their digital behaviors and preferences.

In the future, the providers that flourish will be prepared to meet patients where they are. Health systems are reevaluating pre-pandemic master plans, focusing on consumer experiences and aligning expectations; the built environment, therefore, must seamlessly integrate and provide the same level of convenience as digital care. No matter how or where a patient-consumer receives care, the experience should be the same, not as though they're interacting with different entities

“This means healthcare organizations must plan and build facilities that are flexible, integrative, and capable of blending with a digital, patient-centric care experience that focuses on high-quality, convenient access to providers, in other words, simplifying the path to care,” said Carl Fleming, a DPR Construction healthcare strategist.

A person interacts with a healthcare provider on a tablet screen. Photo: Ground Picture/shutterstock.com

A Change in Approach

This evolution means changes in how capital projects are conceptualized, designed, and built.

“The Chief Experience Officer (CXO) role [encompassing experience, digital, innovation] is becoming more common at health systems across the country,” Fleming said. “These senior leaders are responsible for many aspects of a health system's culture, accountability, and patient satisfaction. A bonus is that many of these leaders have backgrounds outside of healthcare, including experience in retail and other consumer industries. But their knowledge and expertise are too often untapped at the capital planning table.”

Fleming added: “Understanding how and when to leverage a CXO's expertise will be paramount to staying ahead of the curve and ensuring that patient perspectives are central to healthcare strategy and decision-making. Additionally, leaders must know how various experience initiatives across the organization manifest in construction projects to connect the care narratives and increase their value to the patient.”

In support of this, health systems are bringing design and construction professionals to the table earlier while also strategically restructuring digital experiences to support in-person experiences. That will align with the convenience of “omnichannel” communications consumers are accustomed to.

“The omnichannel experience focuses on creating a seamlessly integrated and cohesive experience across all channels,” Fleming said. “No matter how or where a patient-consumer receives care, the experience should be the same, not as though they're interacting with different entities. That means the physical, in-person experience, including the facility itself, must be aligned to digital experiences and expectations.”

A doctor and patient discussing over a tablet. Photo: Lordn/shutterstock.com

The Continuing Evolution of Care

The good news for many providers is that they've already begun to identify the organization's critical consumer experience strategies and goals that are central to the patient experience.

“The pandemic left many health systems feeling exposed,” Fleming said. “Patients stayed away from traditional care venues, and, in many cases, providers' tech stacks proved insufficient to meet rapidly shifting business needs.”

The past two years marked a rapid shift toward digital health, with health systems focused on capabilities that allow them to support patients virtually. Some have added executive leadership to focus on the consumer, innovation, digital, and experience initiatives. In doing so, they've identified the consumer experience as a necessary business strategy.

“The challenge is that these consumer initiatives are not always aligned with facility capital projects,” Fleming said. “In some cases, facilities groups have little or no visibility to consumer engagement and experience, digital, etc. It's like a quarterback is running a different set of plays than the offensive line: You'll have some things that work now and then but making real progress will be a challenge.”

The challenge is that these consumer initiatives are not always aligned with facility capital projects. In some cases, facilities groups have little or no visibility to consumer engagement & experience, digital, etc. It's like a quarterback is running a different set of plays than the offensive line: you'll have some things that work now and then but making real progress will be a challenge.

Carl Fleming

Healthcare Strategist

Fleming sees a true omnichannel experience—and its benefits—starting by bringing those interests, and the senior leaders responsible for them, to the table together in project planning. From there, patient experience initiatives can be worked into capital projects by making sure they inform project design and preconstruction estimating. That has an added benefit: ensuring strategies and tactics to achieve a unified experience across a campus and enterprise work with the budget.

“In the current economic climate, lower revenues equate to less capital available for innovation,” Fleming says. “With many systems operating on thin margins or even in the red, it's more crucial than ever to account for all stakeholders as early as possible in project planning. With everyone at the table, we can provide the best budget counsel possible.”

A doctor and patient talk in an office. Photo: fizkes/shutterstock.com

Bookmarking Big Discussions

Staffing concerns are another critical pressure on providers, so when and how to effectively engage “Experience, Digital and Innovation” leaders on projects is key.

Fleming sees several topics where those experts need to be in discussions:

Physical/Digital Connection

Ensuring the facility capital project is aligned with other digital/experience initiatives across the organization.

Budget Longevity

Generating budgets (technology, consumer experience, etc.) that withstand the test of time during the project lifecycle.

Organizational Alignment

Aligning multiple capital projects (construction, marketing, digital/innovation, experience, etc.)

Experience Support

Supporting enterprise goals concerning consumer and provider experiences.

Return on Investment

Producing solutions that deliver good ROI for all stakeholders.

A doctor sits in front of a laptop, tablet and phone. Photo: NIKCOA/shutterstock.com

Tomorrow’s Facilities Cannot Use Yesterday’s ROI Measures

Getting to the bottom of this new ROI equation requires an understanding of every stakeholder’s needs within the larger enterprise needs.

“Different stakeholders have different skin in the game,” Fleming said. “It’s hard to measure the net impact of integrating experience initiatives across built, digital and innovation without taking that larger picture into account.”

Fleming recommends optimizing data visualization for each group of stakeholders as a starting point.

“Once everyone is able to combine cross-departmental data in new ways, it unlocks opportunities to create and measure the value that matters,” he said. “As an upshot, pulling together consistent information tailored to individual stakeholders' needs can build trust across teams. It's an all-around win.”

Ultimately, each solution will differ provider-to-provider. That said, Fleming believes a similar set of benefits can be achieved by bringing more stakeholders into the fold.

“On the surface, you have some traditional construction and design wins,” Fleming said. “Things like good coordination of initiative timelines and costs, opportunities to share costs from different teams' budgets, and higher ROI. This can even extend to the procurement of medical equipment.”

Providers have all the tools they need to create the omnichannel patient experience consumers want. Realizing the goal, though, will take a change to the ways we collaborate on major capital projects to ensure every base is covered.

Carl Fleming

Healthcare Strategist

But as buildings become more complex and consumer expectations evolve, the handover between construction and operation is changing.

“More than ever, it is necessary to fully prepare for a seamless transition into the occupancy and operation of the building,” Fleming said. “Having executive stakeholders focused on patient-consumer initiatives at the table to start with facilitates this. Plus, you get the kind of creative and analytical strengths to make the decisions that can drive results.”

And, of course, the ultimate goal is a unified, omnichannel patient experience that fosters continuity of care across the care continuum.

“Providers have all the tools they need to create the omnichannel patient experience consumers want,” Fleming said. “Realizing the goal, though, will take a change to the ways we collaborate on major capital projects to ensure every base is covered.”■


Photos: Lordn, Ground Picture, fizkes, and NIKCOA/shutterstock.com


Additional Healthcare Insights

DPR Construction’s healthcare core market team is curating a series of Healthcare Insights to consider how new pressures on the market will transform the delivery of care. Catch up on the previous installments below:

Healthcare’s rapidly evolving realities include caring for an aging population, workforce shortages and burnout, increased uninsured, and lower reimbursement contracts. These realities challenge healthcare providers to deliver care more efficiently at a lower cost.

While Healthcare organizations face myriad financial and operational pressures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, an elevating tide of social and environmental considerations is placing more strains on precious capital than ever.

Design and construction can play a role in better connecting providers with the changing needs and demands of their consumers. Today, consumerism broadly refers to people proactively using trustworthy, relevant information and technology to make better-informed decisions about their healthcare options.