In today’s hyper-connected world, mobile technology has become ubiquitous. With a handheld device at the ready for most people, healthcare organizations must thoughtfully consider a mobile-inclusive strategy to reach the broadest patient community.
More than 80% of U.S. adults own a smartphone. And, for some, it is their main point of reliance for accessing the internet. Access to and use of smartphones spans all income groups, with lower-income Americans relying heavily on such devices. A 2019 Pew study suggests the reason for such high use may be because lower-income individuals have fewer options for accessing the internet. According to the study, ”as of early 2019, 26% of adults living in households earning less than $30,000 a year are ‘smartphone-dependent’ internet users – meaning they own a smartphone but do not have broadband internet at home.”
Mobile technology, like smartphones, are therefore a meaningful way to reach a sizable number of community members, making it crucial for public health outreach and initiatives. But what if the same technology could improve patient engagement both inside and outside the four walls of the hospital?
Luckily, when paired with digital health tools, today’s mobile technology has a role to play in bettering the patient experience during a hospital stay and long after discharge. Let’s take a closer look.
Meeting patient expectations through a mobile-inclusive approach
With easy access to food, flights, libraries, and more facilitated through smartphone apps and mobile browsers, consumer expectations have shifted along with the evolving technology. With so many industries prioritizing convenience and “information-at-your-fingertips” above all else, the consumer experience has changed to one where companies must compete for users by providing a top-notch user experience, alongside high-quality customer service.
This is particularly true in healthcare. Patients were once at the mercy of hospitals and healthcare organizations to provide information and education in whatever manner the hospital deemed most appropriate; now, patients have come to expect — and are increasingly demanding — both convenience and instant access on their own terms.
And increasingly, patients are willing to make a change to get the convenience and access they desire. One NTT Data study found that 50% of patients would leave their healthcare provider for a better digital customer experience. Access, and ultimately patient loyalty, are now dictated by patients’ needs and expectations rather than by what has traditionally been done in the past — it’s time for healthcare organizations to catch up.
Improving patient accessibility with mobile technology
It’s not only a matter of convenience that makes the marriage of mobile technology and digital health tools so enticing. There are very real benefits for both patients and staff that revolve around improving patient accessibility and reducing the burden on staff.
Most patients arrive at the hospital with a phone in their pocket or a tablet on their person. The same is true of visitors — family, friends, and other outside caregivers. At the same time, many hospitals and healthcare organizations have rooms equipped with in-room smart TVs that enable access to patient engagement software solutions.
But what about a mix of these two situations — a patient who arrives with a phone in his or her pocket, but no smart TV in their hospital room? Or, a room that has a smart TV installed, but with a patient who would prefer to navigate on their own device?
When patients are able to access educational and therapeutic offerings in multiple ways, such as on an in-room television or via the devices they have brought to an inpatient setting with them, this accessibility not only empowers patients to be in charge of their own care, but also lifts the burden on staff to provide that same information in many different forms.
Think about it — prior to the advent of digital health tools, nurses and other staff were solely responsible for both educating the patient and ensuring their message and care plans were understood. Now, with these tools available on mobile devices, it’s similar to having that same highly knowledgeable nurse right there at a patient’s beck and call whenever information is needed.
Providing a seamless patient care experience
There’s a significant benefit to having information at the ready via mobile device within the hospital, but what about after a patient is discharged? The COVID-19 pandemic has expanded acute care beyond the four walls of the care setting, impacting all aspects of the care journey from preparation to recovery to the home setting.
Even outside of the hospital, patients need:
- Remote monitoring
- Communication tools
- Digital care pathways
- Educational resources
Facilitating these transitions and needs with mobile technology ensures a seamless, guided patient experience from inpatient to discharge and at every other stage along the way.
The bottom line
Consumer — and patient — expectations have changed with the increasing prevalence of mobile technology. With a device in nearly every pocket today, healthcare organizations must embrace this technology.
But the benefits for those who innovate in tandem with mobile technology are significant. A mobile-inclusive healthcare strategy can help to meet patient expectations, improve accessibility, and provide a seamless experience from start to finish.
By getting — and ideally staying — ahead of technological changes and meeting consumers where they already are, innovative healthcare organizations will be well-positioned to attract and retain patients in the future, all while improving the patient experience.