Healthcare: Shifting Customer Expectations Require A Focus On Customer Experience

Forbes Business Council
Sudhir Agarwal 
Jun 1, 2021
Credit to the image on top: adapted from pinterest

The pandemic has dramatically sped up transformations underway in the U.S. healthcare industry. 

Simultaneously, consumer expectations and demographics are evolving and influencing the desire to seek more detailed information about their health.

Challenging this information demand is the mismatch among 

  • the varied communication channels consumers use 
  • with the limited ways with which healthcare organizations can interact with customers. 

As the founder and CEO of a company that offers customer experience (CX) solutions, I’ve observed that the industry’s evolution and ability to continue thriving requires healthcare organizations 

  • to consider customer experience as a cornerstone to building brands, inspiring loyalty and finding efficiencies.
  • continue thriving requires healthcare organizations

… healthcare organizations … need to … consider customer experience as a cornerstone to building brands, inspiring loyalty and finding efficiencies.

Telemedicine is a good example of how the pandemic encouraged new healthcare practices

It showed peoples’ willingness to embrace new approaches to healthcare. 

Consumer tech-savviness demonstrated opportunities for more engaging means of health management. 

These are good things for everyone’s health and for the healthcare sector, but they created several challenges.

Importantly, pandemic effects significantly tested the capacity of most information delivery systems. 

Combining the cost of Covid-19 care with the cancellation of elective medical procedures took a toll on the bottom line for most healthcare providers. 

Digital transformation is moving at warp speed, accelerated further by institutions’ need 

  • to rethink clinical models and 
  • evaluate (or scrutinize) investments in new digital technologies.

Digital transformation is moving at warp speed…

Such trends are ultimately driving industry consolidation. Vertical integration means healthcare organizations own more of the patient experience. 

And the power of positive CXs can help 

  • manage costs, 
  • drive revenues and 
  • build brand loyalty.

The Value Of Digital Customer Experiences

Covid-19 and healthcare experts working remotely gave healthcare CX systems an epic stress test, or a huge influx of questions from consumers needing immediate and critical healthcare information. 

The results showed today’s healthcare CX systems, 

  • generally comprised of human agents in contact centers 
  • and government agencies 
  • and websites, 

are based on a pre-Covid-19 paradigm that is not prepared for a post-pandemic reality.

… today’s healthcare CX systems … are based on a pre-Covid-19 paradigm that is not prepared for a post-pandemic reality.

Traditional approaches to addressing increased demand for information won’t fix the problem. 

  • Hiring more human agents could take weeks. 
  • Removing limited resources from the front lines of meeting customer inquiries to further train them only increases the system strains.

A further challenge, many systems today can only handle phone inquiries or post information to static websites. 

However, consumers actively use a variety of communications channels including 

  • social media, 
  • messaging applications, 
  • SMS texting and 
  • email.

… consumers actively use a variety of communications channels

Applying technology is part of the answer. 

  • It can enable organizations to interact with customers on any of those channels — a true omnichannel approach. 
  • And modern AI solutions allow for conversational, on-brand responses to routine inquiries, which optimizes human experts to be free for more complex customer needs.

The reality of the surge meant that attempts to manage inbound inquires around topics like 

  • vaccination availability and scheduling 
  • with proactive outreach 

were nearly impossible. 

Without taking an omnichannel approach, healthcare practice and delivery management were challenged by the need to distribute information broadly to all customers in a timely and thorough fashion. 

Exacerbating this CX pain point was the challenge that surges of vaccination and testing-related inquiries risked the ability of patients with other healthcare needs — chronic and emergency situations — to access needed information and interaction with healthcare professionals.

The complexity grows exponentially when multiplied by the vast array of stakeholders in the information chain including hospitals and primary care providers, vaccine distribution centers and local government and public health organizations, insurance providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers and supply chain and logistics providers. 

CX systems and processes that provide order and trusted information out of this complexity are a necessity.

Enabling Today’s Effective Customer Experience

The old paradigm was to move human agent talent ahead of cyclical demands. 

But neither Covid-19 nor healthcare’s evolution are cyclical; the industry faces continual change and challenges. 

CX has a vital role to play in determining the ability of stakeholders to offer reliable information in the face of uncertainty and build trust with stakeholders and customers.

In this context, CX is about understanding and enabling the available talent pool regardless of physical location. 

Covid-19 changed the definition of “talent” to now include the ability to match well-trained human agents, located nearly anywhere and empowered with technology like AI solutions to engage with customers wherever they are on whatever channel they prefer. 

Embracing new technologies to enable a disparate workforce (the human agent talent pool) to effectively and efficiently handle patient inquiries and customer interactions can further enhance the experience customers receive. 

Positive experiences, complete and accurate information access and sharing done in a timely manner are key to creating positive CXs. And positive CXs are essential to establishing brand and consumer loyalty.

This approach is also known as “flexshoring,” and can be a new approach to an old problem. 

Extending access to healthcare knowledge wherever it is needed, and from wherever it is based, is the core principle. 

Flexshoring can help provide a cascade of vital knowledge and skillset wherever it’s required.

Medical experts based anywhere can address medical needs through telehealth consultation. 

A patient’s insurance carrier can approve requests in real-time regardless of the hour on the clock. 

This flexibility in location, hours worked, language spoken and more can give patients access to quality — and branded — care at any time, completely independent of where the customer, provider or payer are located.

The pandemic greatly sped the digital evolution of the U.S. healthcare industry. 

The advances in information management and access in many ways benefitted the public. 
Healthcare organizations planning a path forward will continue to face significant challenges such as managing rising care costs, adopting new models of healthcare delivery driven by consolidation, a shrinking medical provider workforce and more. 

Those organizations that manage and deliver unparalleled customer experiences have a strategic advantage in meeting those challenges and winning over customers in this rapidly evolving industry.

Sudhir Agarwal; is CEO of , which digitally evolves the customer and product experience for some of the world’s most loved brands.

Originally published at

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