What Is Patient Journey Mapping and Why Is It Important?
Kimberly Surico |
 10/20/22 |
8 min read

What Is Patient Journey Mapping and Why Is It Important?

It’s extremely important for healthcare providers (HCPs) to understand the patient journey, particularly as these customers are much more discerningUnlike other consumers, patients deal with a very high stakes commodity––their health. Due to its sensitive nature, it feels weird to even refer to the patient as a customer, but they are.

HCPs that understand the patient journey are well-positioned to adapt the process to their work and business.

For instance, a recent webinar hosted by Fierce Pharma revealed the importance of understanding diverse patient voices.

We explored the vast amount of patient data floating around online and how leading HCPs are using this newfound intelligence to improve Healthcare, by layering insight to reveal actionable intel that speaks to their unique objectives. With patient journey mapping you can better decide at what point you should recruit people for a study or clinical trial, for instance.

Ultimately, the goal of this process is to help people address their health problems faster so they can continue enjoying a full life. The question is where to meet them in this journey, and the answer is found in patient journey mapping.

What Is the Patient Journey?

The patient journey involves all aspects of the patient’s experience with your organization as they try to address their problem. It starts with research, where the patient tries to learn more about what’s ailing them.

Today, patients can conduct research online through government websites, healthcare provider sites, and other dedicated websites. They can also do this through more interactive platforms such as social media and forums where they get to interact with other patients or health experts.

  • This stage of the patient journey can be called “pre-visit” because it involves the steps that come before the patient visits their preferred HCP.
  • The second stage is consultation where they meet, either in-person or online, the potential caregiver.
  • The third stage is post-visit and involves the subsequent steps after visitation and diagnosis.

It’s similar to the typical customer journey, but also different. We’ll share those differences here!

customer-journey-map-accommodating-in-marketing-stack

Patient journey mapping is aimed at improving the satisfaction of the patient by identifying and optimizing the different concerns that affect the patient experience at each stage. By collecting data at these stages, HCPs can create a map that allows them to interpret the patient experience and therefore improve.

This calls for an in-depth analysis of the steps patients take, and the resulting experience at each stage. This means capturing vast amounts of data and then analyzing it, with the help of advanced consumer and market research technology.

Let’s dive in!

Understanding the Stages of the Patient Journey

Accessibility to the internet has improved the patient journey and made it more visible from the HCP’s perspective. Research shows that up to 87% of social media users share their health information on different platforms.

This is only the beginning, as the internet is poised to play an increasingly greater role in the patient journey. Healthcare tech development is eliminating human error, facilitating diagnoses, and improving outcomes.

And then we have cutting edge consumer and market research technology that enhances data collection and analysis that alerts HCPs to how patients are feeling at each stage. And this is key to understanding the patient experience.

1. Awareness

The patient journey begins when they learn about your organization and decide that you could potentially help them. In your patient journey mapping, you want to identify ways that this awareness happens – and where it happens.

When patients talk about disease management, for instance, they take a holistic approach and seek out ideas, options and services recommended by peers. Understanding the entire universe of those conversations can reveal new ways your services are being discussed and where you fit in the larger narrative.

Patient conversation analysis can reveal popular themes to help build brand awareness

Patient conversation analysis can reveal popular themes to help build brand awareness.

Or maybe they find you on review sites, through media coverage, advertisements, or community involvement. You can gather this data from existing patients to know how they learn of you and what makes them pick you.

consumer-conversation-sources-and-outputs

And you also want to know what drives them to consider you as their potential caregiver.

Tips to improve this stage:

  • Monitor how you are portrayed online through reviews, quality ratings, and social media conversations.
  • Offer assistance to the patient in this stage by sharing relevant information on blogs, social media, and other sites and topics where relevant conversations are happening.
  • Perform social media competitive analysis to see who else is out there and how they are impacting your prospective patients and the market.

2. Access

This is the contact stage where the patient reaches out and expresses intent. Remember, this might still be a part of research. And if you are difficult to reach, they will move on to the next candidate.

At this stage, you can learn something more about your prospective patient, namely, their preferred means of communication and ensure that you offer it. This could be on a specific social media channel, email, or phone. Chatbots are also very popular––when done well!

To improve this stage:

  • Improve accessibility wherever you have established visibility––on your website, social media, and targeted advertisements in places patients frequent.
  • Create a complete patient onboarding process with efficient communication and scheduling, based on consumer intelligence data that speaks to specific patient concerns.
  • Consider partnering with a relevant influencer in the space. There are endless patient blogs out there that resonate with your precise audience – use your market research tool to find them!
  • Be relevant and authentic in your communications.

3. Care

Once the patient has made the decision to accept your services, their concern transitions from things such as accreditation and reputation to service delivery. Their mental grading system is now focused on quality of service and their judgment is based on their own experience rather than what you say you can do or what other people say of their experience with you.

Be sure you’re understanding these personal narratives and addressing them in your services––and in your messaging!

Patient conversation analysis can reveal popular themes to help build brand awareness

At this stage in your patient journey mapping, analyze the data concerning front desk interactions, experience in the doctor’s office, and reaction to billing.

The information needed to improve this and every other stage can best be obtained by analyzing the relevant data holistically, even when it has been collected separately. Find a tool that allows integration of the entire ecosystem into one dashboard.

4. Treatment

Most patient problems aren’t solved in the doctor’s office. After diagnosis and all the accompanying procedures, the patient’s experience is continued into the treatment period. They may be discharged with medication or they may be given an in-patient or out-patient arrangement.

At this stage, you want to use the information you have learned about the patient to provide personalized care beyond calling to check in on how their medication is working. Through social media, reviews, and forums, you can learn more about what patients require and offer it right where they need it. This is key to long-term relationship building.

5. Long-term

A positive long-term relationship is where repeat visits and referrals come from. Further, you want to be close to the patient as they make lifestyle changes like getting regular checkups and other ancillary needs.

 

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Benefits of Patient Journey Mapping

There are many compelling reasons why HCPs conduct patient journey mapping. In a NetBase Quid LIVE presentation, Tom Kirby, Director of Consumer Insights & Strategy at UPMC, a global nonprofit health organization––urges the industry to evolve.

Kirby shares that health organizations can do this by expanding their role in the life of the patient and promoting ease of service. And patient journey mapping allows you to achieve these objectives in a variety of ways.

1. Efficient patient care

Let’s start with the business case. In trying to improve the patient’s experience, HCPs understand how to provide higher levels of care with fewer resources.

For instance, they can more accurately determine where to share useful information if they know the tendencies of a patient at the research stage, rather than blanketing efforts to places that are irrelevant.

They can also optimize their outreach efforts through various marketing techniques since they know where the target patient is and the type of content they will respond to.

2. Proactive patient care

The proactive approach in patient care is aimed at prevention rather than cure. It is the opposite of reactive care where problems are addressed only when they arise or start to hamper life.

With patient journey mapping, HCPs are better positioned to not only identify opportunities for proactive care but also get better outcomes in trying to work with patients for the prevention of potential issues.

They’re more likely to listen to you when you demonstrate that you are listening to them!

3. Value-based patient care

As Kirby points out in his presentation, patients want to ascertain the value of care they get vis-à-vis what they spend. This is why health organizations need to be more transparent.

Value-based patient care is focused on giving the one patient satisfaction and the best outcome possible. On the other hand, volume-based care is about serving as many patients as possible.

Patient journey mapping helps HCPs understand patient expectations and preferences so they can offer a personalized (value-based) experience.

4. Retention and referrals

Finally, if the patient is satisfied with your services, they will always come to you when they have a health problem you can fix. Additionally, they will be more inclined to refer you to their family and friends, not to mention create favorable reviews and other advocacy on social media, which is powerful.

How to Get Started with Patient Journey Mapping

When you understand the patient journey, creating a map is not difficult. Here are a few things to take you through the process.

1. Get the data

Every HCP has at least a manual system for collecting patient data. But you need to move to a more advanced system that allows you to collect, upload, and analyze all of the data sources captured at various points of the patient journey. Otherwise, your insight is lacking and so too, your results.

Without the right kind of data, the system breaks down. You need a powerful data collection platform that can access the kind of data you need.

Oftentimes organizations are using a variety of different tools to capture everything about the patient experience. This is fine, but you must have a primary platform that’s equipped to work with third party tools and bring it all together in one dashboard for analysis.

2. Build the framework

Based on your holistic understanding the space, your organization needs to get a 10,000-foot view of what is happening, where and why.

To reiterate what we mentioned above, you need to see where conversations are happening and the overarching sentiment. And you also need a solid understanding of the competitive environment to know where your services are lacking and ways to improve, as there are always ways to improve!

3. Learn the language

Digging into specifics, you need to know the language that patients use allows you to interpret the data you have collected through social listening, reviews, direct feedback, and other sources. Use sentiment analysis to better understand patient experiences, identify pain points, and map effective approaches.

Learn the language of the patient.

NetBase Quid’s consumer and market intelligence platform is built on the most advanced research technology allowing you to collect the data you need at any step of the patient journey.

It has the ability to upload the data and integrate with third-party tools. A powerful dashboard allows easy analysis and interpretation of data as well as sharing it with others in intuitive visualizations. Be sure to reach out for a demo to learn more, as your patients are waiting for you to discover what they need online!

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