In the first of three posts, we look at all the different elements that go to make up the healthcare continuum. Beginning with the patient’s journey through hospital.
One of the bi-products of the pandemic was that it forced hospitals and healthcare facilities to atomize the patient’s hospital journey. Everyone sat down to look at each stage to see which ones could be done virtually, and which ones absolutely had to be done face to face.
This process of mapping the patient’s journey had already begun, but it’s now been thrust centre stage. And the transformation that’s been sweeping through every other avenue of commerce is now being addressed by healthcare providers.
It’s all about the customer. Or, as they say in the tech world, the user experience, or UX.
UX for healthcare providers
Instead of designing a product or service, and then addressing whatever problems arise later, you begin at the end. You carefully study the journey your customers are going to go on, to find out what the pain points are, beforehand. You then design your product or service so that all those problems have already been addressed from the get-go.
What then is the journey that a patient goes through when they end up in hospital?
The first thing they do is to work out what kind of healthcare provider they need. This is invariably done through their GP or family doctor and usually means scheduling a visit, or getting a referral, to some kind of a hospital.
Going to hospital is daunting. Trying to find out where you need to go when you first arrive, checking in at the right reception, filling out whatever forms are needed, and then waiting to be called. Then answering whatever questions the nurse has, before finally having the actual consultation.
And then, if you need to come back for a procedure, there’s your experience of the before, during, and after of that. And that of your family members, as they wait for news.
Once it’s over, you’ll be given the care instructions you need to follow. And then a feedback survey, before finally being discharged.
Over the weeks that follow, you’ll be in contact with the hospital and the people who looked after you, to make sure you’re hitting the milestones you need to tick off. And finally, there’s the business of how you’re going to go about paying for all this.
Every single one of these stages matters. From how easy it is to find your way from the car park to the right reception, to whether or not your post-procedure calls are being returned.
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust
So there’s a lot more to looking after a patient than simply shepherding them through their operation. Take Guy’s and St Thomas’ (GSTT) in London. GSTT is one of the largest NHS trusts in the UK. With a staff of more than 22,0001 and an annual turnover of almost £1.6 billion, 2.6 million patients pass through its doors every year2.
And those doors are many and varied. It runs five hospitals and any number of community and charity services. Last year, for instance, it delivered over one million healthy breakfasts to those in need. It also oversees a large investment fund, which helps to pay for all that, and which allows it to fund its many research labs and partnerships.
So on the one hand, they’ve to look after their patients, in a warm and friendly way, through every stage of that journey. And on the other, they’ve to competently juggle a million and one organizational challenges.
All of which they’ve to do on ever-tighter budgets, and under ever greater scrutiny. So how does a place like Guy’s and St Thomas’ do it?
The main lesson for healthcare providers: Harnessing technology
The first answer to which is, with great difficulty. But the second answer is, by harnessing technology. Specifically, thanks to the healthcare PPM software they use internally. All of the data that each of the GSTT teams relies on is centralized and coordinated through the one, organizing hub. Everything gets updated in real-time, so everyone has access to everything and on a permanent basis.
Technology won’t solve everything. But the right software makes working at Guy’s and St Thomas’ considerably easier. And much more efficient.