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While the future of patient access is digitally-enabled, when it comes to helping consumers find and schedule care, simplicity and flexibility are key, according to healthcare leaders at Kyruus’ 8th Annual Thought Leadership on Access Symposium (ATLAS).

The event brings together guest speakers, panelists, and attendees from top healthcare organizations to share insights on the evolving state of patient access – and based on this year’s discussions, here are three patient access trends identified by these thought leaders:

1. Be Prepared to Engage with Consumers Digitally – and In-Person.

The pandemic pushed consumers to become more comfortable with digital technology in all areas of their lives, including healthcare. As a result, consumers have higher expectations about where, when, and how they will engage with providers. What’s critical, though, is to ensure access encompasses both digital and in-person care and services, so it’s easy for patients to navigate the care journey on their terms. “We must adapt our delivery to the patient’s situation. Meeting them where they are physically, culturally, emotionally, and at their level of health literacy,” said Catherine Harrell, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer at Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System. “Convenience is our currency.”

PRO TIP: “Focus on giving patients what they want and how they want it. Make experiences easy and low effort, and focus on the user and their needs, not our complicated backroom processes. We personalize the experience based on what we know about a user and always provide options to engage with us.” – Mona Baset, Vice President, Digital Services, SCL Health

Learn more about how today’s digitally-empowered consumers discover, select, and schedule care by downloading Kyruus’ 2021 Patient Access Journey Report.

2. Demand for Online Self-Scheduling Will Grow – Along with Provider Concerns.

Positive experiences in other industries have fueled consumers’ appetite for online scheduling in healthcare. In fact, Kyruus’ research reveals that for many – Millennials and Gen Xers in particular – online scheduling plays an important role in provider selection. While healthcare organizations realize the value of online scheduling, they may experience pushback from providers concerned about over-scheduling. Tarun Kapoor, MD, SVP & Chief Digital Transformation Officer at Virtua Health, suggests a phased implementation, and Thomas Pacek, VP, Systems, Integration and Technology at Inspira Health, concurs, “Your operational and clinical teams need to be ready for the volume when you move to online scheduling. The last thing you want is to have patients wait or only have appointments available far in the future.”

PRO TIP: “You don’t have to boil the ocean when rolling out new patient online scheduling. We started with primary care and then moved to more complex conditions.” – Katie Scott, VP, Digital Strategy and Innovation, UPMC

3. Lines Between Providers and Payers Will Further Blur When Accessing Care.

Kyruus’ consumer research shows health plan websites have taken a greater role in patient access, with over half of those looking for care online consulting a health plan website in their search. While consumers mostly visited health plan sites to verify a provider’s network status, more than half logged in to find a new provider. That’s why many healthcare organizations are working to integrate their providers’ profile data into health plan directories, in order to create greater consistency when consumers toggle between health system and health plan websites. Flexibility is key, according to Pamela Landis, VP, Digital Engagement, Hackensack Meridian Health, who shared “It doesn’t matter where someone starts their scheduling journey – website, partner site, or even a payer – as long as they end up on the right schedule and make that booking.”

PRO TIP: “When a consumer wants care at Geisinger, they don’t think about whether they’re searching through the plan or the system. They just know they want care at Geisinger, so the plan and system information has to be consistent.” – David Brady, Strategic Consultant, Geisinger Health Plan