Digital innovation has never been more important to a healthcare organization’s bottom line than it is today. Prompted by a surge of digital-native healthcare competitors and an increased willingness from patients to shop around for the most convenient care at the best price, differentiated digital patient experiences have become a competitive focal point.

In the digital era, patients expect their experiences with their healthcare provider to be both personalized and seamless—providing access to information, scheduling and other tools whenever and wherever they need it. Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations have yet to effectively meet these high patient expectations when it comes to their digital capabilities.

According to a 2020 survey by Redpoint Global, 75% of U.S. consumers wish their healthcare experiences were more personalized. In the same survey, 58% of consumers also said they would prefer their healthcare interactions to be digital.

Chart showing 75 percent wish their healthcare experiences were more personalized. 58 percent said they prefer their healthcare interactions to be digital.

To succeed in this new, highly competitive digital landscape, healthcare organizations must invest in digital infrastructure that both meets patient expectations for seamless experiences and helps it to stand out in an increasingly saturated digital environment. Let’s take a look at five emerging digital trends healthcare organizations should prioritize to deliver differentiated patient experiences.

1. Increasing access to on-demand care

“On-demand” has become a big buzzword when it comes to many traditional consumer categories from entertainment and transportation to groceries and other consumer products. It’s no surprise that healthcare is heading in the same direction.

In the midst of their busy lives, patients expect to be able to fit their healthcare journey neatly into their existing schedules. The next step in this digital evolution? On-demand access to a healthcare professional. Soon online clinics and seamless telehealth platforms could empower patients to schedule online appointments with little to no wait times—and with healthcare workers near or far—as a remote pool of contracted clinicians are matched up with patients in real-time.

As speed-of-care continues to become a key point of differentiation, this “gig-economy” approach to clinician scheduling offers one potential solution to significantly reduce the friction associated with scheduling both online and in-person appointments on short notice.

2. Understanding patient needs with big data

Healthcare organizations hold a lot of data. Current estimates place the average amount of data created by a single patient each year at more than 80 megabytes. Some of these sources of data include diagnostic, medication and visit records. While rapid response times driven by on-demand programs and seamless virtual appointment tools can improve the patient experience, these are reactionary solutions reserved for when patients decide they need care. Big data can help healthcare organizations pair these solutions with proactive care strategies to keep patients healthier over time.

Picture this: Automatic trigger warnings and reminders based on historical patient data are sent out via a healthcare system’s EHR, signaling to a medical provider that a patient is due for a new lab test or renewal on their prescriptions—while also notifying the patient to sign up for a new appointment. As a result, patients stay up to date on their preventative care plan and healthcare systems are better able to provide a high-touch patient experience that promotes better health and fewer unexpected health concerns.

3. Predictive healthcare digital strategies

Beyond the insights that can be gleaned from patterns in historical patient data, healthcare organizations can also learn from tons of search data that can be easily accessed through traditional digital marketing research methods.

Predicting the impact of seasonal flu, for example, is much easier to spot when regional searches for things like “Do I have the flu?” or “What are flu symptoms?” begin to spike. By using digital and social search trends as a barometer, healthcare organizations can anticipate these challenges and even begin to prepare for them. Creating digital journeys that direct patients to answers to these questions and quickly provide them with access to appointments can be a powerful strategy to earn new patients and build their trust.

4. Supporting seamless patient journeys with Artificial Intelligence

Even in cases where digital marketing strategies have overhauled the patient journey to provide easy answers to routine medical questions, unintended complexity or small differences between patient needs can still lead to digital journey roadblocks. Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers one simple digital strategy to keep patients on track.

Widely used by brands in traditional consumer markets, AI chatbots and virtual assistants can deliver similar navigation and journey support in healthcare. From customer service, to simple diagnostics, to AI-driven therapy, these solutions can help personalize the patient experience without the need for an email or phone call that might slow down the process and lead to unnecessary frustration. By setting up AI pathways that address common patient queries, healthcare organizations can support the patient journey with minimal user friction.

5. The modern healthcare website sits at the center of it all

While all of these digital solutions have something to offer when it comes to speeding patient care and promoting positive patient experiences, they can’t replace a cutting-edge website as the engine of your patient engagement strategy. As digital patient experiences take center stage, a healthcare organization’s website has become the critical hub for all of them.

A chart showing 47 percent of consumers head online to research doctors. 38 percent research hospitals and medical facilities and 77 percent book medical appointments.

Transforming your website into a seamless digital patient experience starts with a strong understanding of your prospective patients by looking at behavioral data patterns on your site—what are they searching for and what end results are they hoping to achieve? From there, a combination of UX and accessibility best practices paired with personalized content streams can help unlock your digital presence and turn it into a powerful asset in the race to deliver personalized, highly differentiated patient experiences.