Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. healthcare system is difficult to navigate for patients.
  • Technology development offers providers promising solutions for making care more seamless.
  • Healthcare AI has the potential to help providers leap into a new era of patient-centric care.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Seeking and receiving high-quality care in the U.S. isn’t easy. An Ipsos poll revealed 63% of Americans consider navigating healthcare to be stressful. This difficulty that individuals face could thwart them from attending regular check-ups, adhering to treatment plans, or visiting the ED in more urgent circumstances.

In an industry fraught with fragmentation, how do healthcare leaders move the needle to provide more connected, compassionate care?

In this episode of the Memora Health Care Delivery Podcast, our guest Haley Bolton, Corporate Director of Patient Access Support Services at Emory Healthcare, discusses friction patients encounter when navigating care, how technology can be used to promote seamless care journeys, and why healthcare AI is a game-changer.

Fragmentations in healthcare cause navigation challenges for patients

Healthcare in America is confusing for patients. For instance, according to one survey, over half of Americans are either always, frequently, or sometimes uncertain about whether they received care from an in-network provider. How did we get here?

Simply put, our healthcare system has been built to be conducive to fee-for-service payment models — not for seamless patient navigation. And this has led to several friction-filled touchpoints. 

Take securing an appointment as an example. Bolton explains, “The scheduling process in particular can be very frustrating. You're navigating complex phone trees. You might be waiting on hold while the team member you're talking to is trying to connect with a nurse or an in-clinic team member. And you're piecing together sometimes fragmented availability across different providers and locations.”

The answer to this issue, Bolton argues, is putting in place processes that advance patient-centric care. She adds, “How do we empower patients to manage their own care on their own time? How do we reduce friction and improve access? One of the ways that I'm excited about is implementing self-scheduling. And increasing greater transparency around costs, insurance coverage, and trying to shift patients out of the role of playing detective where they're trying to decipher medical bills and negotiate with their payor — providing clear and more upfront information to help patients make more informed decisions about their care.”

Discover how one health system used AI to support its oncology patients.

Digital innovation will be at the forefront of advancing patient-centric care

Although elevating the healthcare system to place the patient at the core of care delivery won’t happen overnight, Bolton proposes technology can go far in pointing providers in the right direction.

A key area where digital health can help is in empowering patients to self-service symptom management upstream from the hospital. Bolton explains, “If Sonia has a sore throat, she can go onto an application and begin to input some of her symptoms, and actually go through a series of questions that a nurse might ask her to understand where's the right landing point for her. Does she need primary care? Urgent care? A virtual ER? How do we take some of the framework that exists for our nursing staff or for non clinical schedulers and shift that into a format where patients can navigate on their own time frame and a means that might be convenient or more comfortable for them?”

The extent to which healthtech might enhance care delivery doesn’t stop with helping patients understand and navigate symptoms. It also has the potential to improve how patient concerns are prioritized for care teams. Bolton remarks, “I think that the next space for where we're hoping to focus is more around how do we triage acuity? How do we triage the patient's symptoms also and get them to the right spot? So lots of use cases for self service.”

Memora Health’s intelligent care enablement platform proactively triages patient concerns directly in an EHR-integrated dashboard. Furthermore, it surfaces alerts within clinicians’ existing workflows and contextualizes them with actionable information — allowing accessible, longitudinal data via a full patient profile.

Healthcare AI will be pivotal for improving patients’ care journeys

Technology is advancing how we think about supporting patients and how we can develop a more patient-centric healthcare system. But one particular segment is showing distinct promise: AI.

Bolton explains that AI can offer healthcare a wide range of benefits — from clinical applications to patient support to improving efficiency. “In a couple of years as a healthcare landscape, I would hope that we have AI reading a pathology report or an imaging report, and actually doing some of that disease detection or understanding a referral order. And then helping make informed recommendations around when [a patient] needs to be seen, who she needs to be seen by to decrease that kind of  administrative time to review records, to gather records, to figure out the right provider or the right appointment,” she says.

Ultimately, Bolton suggests that digital advancements — including AI — must be accessible to patients to help them. She says, “We know that some of our patients who lack transportation also potentially lack a cell phone … Often, these patients don't have reliable broadband or a means to connect over telemedicine visits … How do we get into the community? How do we reach our patients where they are?” 

Patients have been facing difficulties when navigating care for quite awhile. Now is the time for healthcare providers to prioritize understanding barriers to care and put real solutions in place to address them. By harnessing the right technologies, health systems can equip populations they treat with accessible tools that will give them the best experience possible when navigating their care journeys. And, in turn, care teams will feel less overwhelmed by low-hanging fruit, and more fulfilled providing top-of-license care.