Healthcare is on the cusp of a digital overhaul. With 4 million mobile health and fitness apps downloaded every day, healthcare can no longer remain significantly less mature than other industries in the adoption of digital technologies; a 2013 study by Capgemini found that only 33% of healthcare providers are considered to be ‘Digirati’.[1]

For patients, the status quo is depressingly familiar: long Accident & Emergency waiting times with no status available and slow appointment booking processes increase both patient frustration and health provider costs. Patients increasingly want to take their health into their own hands, and digital is a key enabler.

The ‘digital patient experience’, beginning with mobile and social media channels, should aim to place the patient at the centre of their own healthcare journey in the same way retail customers are in All Channel Experience[2] propositions. A 2014 survey by the National Research Corporation shows how 45% of respondents search for health information on social media channels already, whilst 34% actually ask for health-related advice.

Digirati healthcare providers have shown vast improvements in patient outcomes through the use of social media and mobile channel interaction. One such example is the US based Mayo Clinic which has developed a smartphone app that enables cardiac surgery patients to track their own recovery; in a pilot study only 20% of patients who used the app were re-admitted to hospital within three months of surgery, compared with 60% of those who did not use the app. The Mayo Clinic has now partnered with Apple in order to provide follow up recommendations to patients who use Apple’s HealthKit app (to be included in the upcoming iOS 8 software update) to monitor their health progress.

Source: Apple Inc. iOS 8 Health (

Examples of investments in mobile technologies like this are few and far between in the healthcare industry. It has been estimated that the NHS could save up to £7 billion a year by innovatively using everyday technology to deliver quality healthcare to those who are chronically ill, and thus reduce hospital admissions and visits. As a case in point, mental healthcare is one of the biggest items on the NHS budget (£12 billion in 2011). Yet, examples exist that show how existing capabilities of smartphones and tablets can provide monitoring and therapeutic functions, even at the most basic levels – research undertaken in the UK has demonstrated how “SMS and voice-calls can be used to assess mental health status, deliver talking therapies (eg cognitive behavioural therapy) and stimulate behavioural change”.[3]

So, what are some key outcomes healthcare providers should look to deliver in order to provide an excellent digital patient experience?

  1. Use Digital Channels for Patient Interaction – this includes online portals that allow patients to make their own appointments and social media platforms and mobile apps with personalised health content
  2. Provide Online Access to Medical Records – patients should have the ability to be notified when new information is made available by their doctors
  3. Invest in improving the Experience in Hospitals and Surgeries – providers could look to use Gamification techniques to motivate both staff and patients
  4. Invest in Digital Leadership – healthcare providers increasingly need to shape their organisations around digital services, beginning from the top down

Providing data security is established, the digital patient experience can be a means to achieving healthier and more satisfied patients whilst also helping healthcare providers to contain costs. In order to enable this, providers must not only engage with patients through new digital channels but also act upon the myriad opportunities that digital technologies present – leadership is the key to this transformation. With a prize so great and so easily within reach, change is inevitably on the horizon; the digital tsunami is about to hit the healthcare economy.

[1] Companies that have the digital maturity to build digital innovations combined with the ability to drive enterprise-wide transformation, as defined by Capgemini and MIT

[2] Where companies provide their customers with a seamless customer experience  across all relevant channels simultaneously, with data and insight at its core