Healthcare delivery is slowly becoming high tech. Like other industries, healthcare uses digital technology and the Internet to make healthcare information, and even some diagnostic and delivery services faster and more accessible.
But healthcare isn’t like booking a hotel room or buying a pair of shoes. Buying the wrong size boots isn’t a major life situation with possible dire consequences. Simply pack up the boots and send them back, usually for a full refund. No harm done.
The same can’t be said for healthcare information or services. For many people, the Internet has taken on a reputation as an expert, or at the least, a reliable source of information. Consumers use the Internet to locate traditional providers of healthcare services as well. But how reliable and customer-friendly are on-line healthcare sites? David Shaywitz shared his experiences and frustrations with online healthcare services, and more traditional delivery methods, in his article, "Why Not Us? Time for Better—No Basic—Customer Service in Healthcare."
In Shaywitz’s case, he was merely looking for a pharmacy where he could take his kids for their flu vaccine. While he was able to find a local pharmacy online, once he got there the pharmacist told him his kids were too young and he would have to go to their pediatrician for the vaccine. While the Internet website could find a location, it didn’t have enough information for him to choose the right provider and get the service he needed.
Shaywitz was now at the mercy of conventional healthcare. After leaving messages and a few phone calls with the pediatrician’s office, he got two separate appointments for the flu vaccines. No walk-ins allowed. What started with some Internet surfing for an easy and alternate way to get a simple service ended up in the bureaucracy of traditional healthcare delivery.
He ends his story with some suggestions for better results when blending healthcare with high-tech.
- Don’t confuse eHealth with health. What was supposed to be an easy, convenient exercise ended up frustrating and disappointing. When blending high-tech with healthcare, accuracy is not just important, it’s critical. The time wasted chasing a dead end based on Internet information can have serious consequences. Just like traditional healthcare providers, if Internet information isn’t accurate and up-to-date, customers will go elsewhere.
- Healthcare remains deficient in customer service. Shaywitz compares getting an appointment with his mechanic to one with a doctor. It’s easier, quicker and its more likely the mechanic won’t make him wait. Just like attention spans are getting shorter, so is the willingness to wait on anything.
- Healthcare providers need to overhaul outdated processes and make healthcare service delivery faster, more efficient, convenient, and customer-friendly. If pharmacies like Walgreens can dispense flu vaccines for walk-up customers, why can’t doctor’s offices do the same? Customers expect the same speed and convenience of the Internet in conventional service delivery, and they won’t be patient for long.
It may take longer for healthcare to catch up. Some information and services may never be suited—or preferred—for online delivery. The healthcare industry may take longer to break out of traditional molds, but those providers that make the leap will find customers flocking to their doors—and websites.
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