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How to Integrate Digital Technology and the Patient Experience

Almost every technology vendor or platform provider in healthcare aims to be patient-centred or use the patient-centred term as a buzzword. Yet how do we really know that a platform is patient centred unless you actually ask a patient?

Patients don’t want technology, they want solutions to their problems. Often, I have found that in working with many healthcare organisations from hospitals to clinics to insurance companies, it is often assumed that we know what patients and consumers really want in their solutions. Yet, the truth is we often either do not ask the question or we don’t go deep enough into the emotional insights behind the needs and wants of patients. It is time to recognise that there is a two-tiered transformation occurring in health.

The first is a transformation occurring at a health system level – organisations like hospitals are trying to keep up with a pace of change that is unparalleled in the digital world yet struggling to meet those changes in an effective and coordinated manner.

The second change is a consumer-driven transformation – consumers are adopting Fitbits, wearables and internet of things at an extravagant pace yet often find themselves unable to either make sense of the data from these tools nor integrate them with the digital infrastructure of the health system (including hospital health records).

Whilst significant integration activities such as the international nationalisation of health records are taking place on the part of organisations (small organisations through to government agencies), some key elements need to be taken into consideration in the implementation of more human-centered approaches into IT:

  1. Selecting the right starting point: From a system redesign perspective, it is important to first start with mapping out the patient journey and outcomes you want to achieve relative to the patient journey. The mistakes some health IT professionals make in this space is starting with system architecture design rather than patient journey design.
  2. Don’t try to look at what we’ve got and make it better: Instead, let’s look at what experiences and outcomes consumers want to achieve and redesign the system to achieve those goals.
  3. Link data in the journey, not systems: Instead of trying to link data between systems, think about linking the data between different points of the patient journey to improve the experience, insights and outcomes for patients on those points of the journey.
  4. Consider the patient’s entire eco-system: Aim for a future state where we can create mass behavioural personalisation within each technology system, so the lack of integration is not even noticed. Here’s what I mean by this. As the world of technology moves on, systems become more fragmented with multiple different devices and software tools that cater to various different niches. This then creates a challenge for the consumer in terms of integrating it with all the other technology they utilise. For example, a type 2 diabetic patient might have their own application (or app) for dealing with complications such as ulcers. While incredibly useful for the patient, he or she is challenged as to how to integrate it with all the other health apps, tools or software that he or she utilises. Solution vendors are often more vested in getting initial uptake and design their solutions with a very niche and siloed purpose. They care less about integrating it with other solutions within that patient’s technology ecosystem and environment. In the case of type 2 diabetic patient – if a more user-centred approach to systems is undertaken, the focus would be in mapping out the patient journey and ecosystem of technologies that surround that diabetic patient in order to make the entire experience as meaningful as possible.
  5. Health practitioner’s needs what consumer’s value. This final point is really a summarisation of the above. Once you’ve created a solution (ideally using a lean start-up approach), it is important to combine that with an evidence-based approach in terms of features and functionalities that are most appropriate for that diabetic patient. Remember that what health practitioners value in terms of the data collected is not always equivalent to what consumers value in the utilisation of a technology solution. Hence, we need to find the right balance or formula

Ideally, as the health system continues to bridge the gap between health professionals, organisations and consumers, we integrate the requirements from these various stakeholders and truly create patient-centred adoption of solutions that are aligned with organisational strategy, quality and safety objectives and patient experience key performance indicators (KPIs).

If you’d like to have chat with me about your thoughts on the digital patient experience, feel free to reach out to


About the Author: Dr Avnesh Ratnanesan

Dr Avi is a medical doctor with broad healthcare sector experience including hospitals, biotech, pharmaceuticals and the wellness industry. He is a leading expert who coaches and consults to senior executives, entrepreneurs, practitioners, organisations and governments.