January 25th, 20244 min read

Patient Experience Tech Trends to Watch in 2024

David Wright
Written byDavid WrightChief Operating Officer

I hope you all enjoyed our last blog: a 2023 year-in-review message written by Vital CEO and Co-Founder Aaron Patzer. As we begin this New Year, I want to share some thoughts and observations about where patient experience tech is headed.

If you haven’t had a chance to, check out the Patient Engagement HIT article 2024 to Bring Thoughtful Patient Engagement Tech Investments. I agree that our industry is well-positioned to address several issues in the next 12 months, including patient communication, system growth, and staffing shortages. Here are some thoughts on each.

Patient Communication

Let’s start with this observation from the article above: A November MGMA found that 26% of medical group leaders are focusing on patient communication tech over the next 12 months. It’s not surprising that this area is getting so much attention.

Communication is crucial in healthcare, especially in the emergency department (ED) and inpatient settings. For the patient, it’s about understanding their condition or procedure, knowing what comes next and how they’re progressing in their treatment, getting clear instructions on what to do after discharge, keeping loved ones informed, and much more.

From the provider’s perspective, it’s about positively impacting health outcomes. And doing so while providing the kind of service that builds patient loyalty. Whether it’s providing patients with personalized and highly accurate ED wait times, using artificial intelligence (AI) to “translate” complex medical notes, immediately identifying and resolving service gaps, or paving the way for patients to easily schedule in-network follow-up care, I believe patient communication tools will become increasingly important in 2024.

But not in the way that’s been promised by health tech in the past. We can’t allow patient communication tools to fall short of consumer expectations. And we certainly shouldn’t make it harder on clinicians, administrative staff, or IT specialists. 

The increased interest in leveraging technology to help with patient communications is no doubt being driven by the widespread use of similar tech in other industries. If you think of all the consumer-centric apps that people rely on outside healthcare (e.g., Amazon, Netflix, Uber, etc.), what makes them so effective isn’t just the goods and services they deliver. It’s also their ability to keep their customers informed and engaged in real time across the entire consumer experience continuum. Patients want the same thing when it comes to their healthcare. 

So, hats off to the 1 in 4 healthcare leaders who are prioritizing patient communication. By providing patients with the tools to better engage with their health journey, these forward-thinking leaders are retaining patients and gaining more market share. As for the 3 in 4 who aren’t considering such solutions, they may have a tougher time staying relevant in the communities they serve in 2024 and beyond.

System Growth

This brings me to another important observation in the article: “We're definitely seeing patients have more of a consumerism focus where they're really prioritizing ease of access and also relying more upon things like online reviews,” said Andrew Hadje, CMPE, director of Content & Consulting at MGMA. 

At the NGPX conference in Palm Springs this past November, the patient experience (PX) professionals I spoke with were clearly more focused on online reviews reflecting an exciting shift in the collective understanding of how online reviews bring increased patient volume. Online reviews have become so ubiquitous in other industries, hospitals and health systems are now seeing that they’re influential in patient choices for their health care. In fact, studies reflect that 72% of patients now consider online reviews before selecting a provider.

The question is, how do health systems make that happen? At Vital, our clients commonly report significant and rapid increases in their Google star ratings. Most recently, a client of ours reported a rating increase from 2.7 to 4.7 in 90 days by encouraging highly satisfied patients to leave a review online through Vital’s patient experience tools. In most industries, increases of this magnitude are unheard of. Not only is it good for business, our clients tell us that seeing positive reviews has had a noticeable impact on staff morale. 

Staff Shortages

With growing staffing shortages, staff morale, recognition and engagement matters more than ever. As mentioned in the Patient Experience HIT article, clinician burnout, staffing challenges, and nursing shortages will likely be the top organizational threats in 2024. 

In symplr’s second annual Compass Survey, attracting and retaining healthcare workers is now a top priority for most hospitals and health systems in the U.S. An overwhelming majority of respondents agreed that managing repercussions from staff shortages (97%), recruiting nurses from outside the organization (97%), and retaining nurses (96%) are challenges for their organization.

Fortunately, AI can help. As my colleague Stephanie Frisch, PhD pointed out in her article in Healthcare Business Today, AI can relieve a tremendous amount of administrative burden from clinicians’ shoulders while helping them reconnect with the reason they got into healthcare in the first place.

For example, when it comes to health literacy — a factor the American Medical Association says is a stronger predictor of health status than age, income, employment status, education level, and race — AI can make a huge difference. In fact, the same algorithms Netflix uses to recommend content can be used to automatically prescribe video education based on information contained in the EHR and clinician notes. 

Large language models (LLMs) are also very good at simplifying complex medical jargon that is incomprehensible for most patients. “Edema” becomes “swelling.” “Cerebral infarction” becomes a “stroke.” And “NPO at 00:00.,” means the patient “shouldn’t eat or drink after midnight.” When LLMs translate medical terms into plain language, patients have much more actionable information on hand.

Given the right training, validation and testing, generative AI can parse a 15-page discharge summary to pull forward the most relevant details for each patient. Nearly 80% of the content is boilerplate information (e.g., COVID policies) or things the patient already knows (e.g., their body mass index). In mere seconds, AI can sift through all that content and present the patient with, for example, the top three things they need to do after leaving the hospital: pick up medications, avoid certain foods, set up an appointment with a specialist, etc.

Final Thoughts

I’m excited to see where our industry takes us over the next 12 months. It’s clear that AI-enabled health care is a fast growing area that is getting increased attention by a growing number of health systems. And, it’s moving fast. I believe those health systems that incorporate AI-enabled health tech into their patient care strategy will be the differential market leaders and a first choice for health care consumers in their region.

So, I leave you with this final observation from the Patient Engagement HIT article: A mere 13% of practice leaders said they’re prioritizing AI in 2024. That, the author concludes, is likely because practices “don’t have the bandwidth to develop their own AI models and they are waiting for an off-the-shelf solution.”

Contact me. We have several.