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Transforming Access Strategies: Think Like a Retail Giant to Improve Access

With the ever-changing health care landscape, it’s essential for organizations to prioritize access as a critical part of their value proposition to consumers. Patients as consumers are savvy now and have more options than ever on where to receive care. By adopting a consumer-centric approach, health care systems can create a seamless and convenient experience for patients. Drawing inspiration from the success of Amazon’s customer experience strategy, health care organizations can learn valuable lessons and transform their approach to access.

What you can learn from the Amazon effect

Amazon’s 1-Click Buy exemplifies how this once small online bookstore transformed into the world’s largest e-commerce retailer. Unlike its competitors who were preoccupied with the products they were selling, Amazon recognized the importance of simplifying the purchase process and enhancing the customer experience. Uncovering that a complex checkout was leading to many abandoned carts, Amazon introduced the instant buy option – the ingenious solution that removed purchase barriers, thus satisfying customers, fueling Amazon’s growth, and cultivating long-term loyalty.

Health care can learn from this approach, as it currently focuses on clinical programs and overlooks the importance of experience. Access is crucial for a positive health care experience that ensures availability, convenience, understanding, affordability, and respect. Before people can receive great care, you have to help them get to you first. To maximize value and competitiveness, health systems must prioritize consumer-centric access transformation, following five critical steps.

  1. Reposition the value of access: Health care needs to view access as a vital component of its value proposition. Currently, access initiatives are siloed and lack a unified vision. Access must be elevated as a core market differentiator, and a clear, enterprise-wide vision for seamless entry into the system should be adopted at all levels of the organization.
  2. Define access: The term “access” is ambiguous which makes it difficult to articulate and set clear goals for improvement. Organizations must deconstruct access into tangible and actionable dimensions that, together, address all the needs of health care consumers comprehensively and guide improvement initiatives. Depending on the organization’s specific vision, these might include, but are not limited to:
    1. Availability across providers, services and sites of care to meet the needs of the community
    2. Convenience in scheduling the appointments easily, managing wait times, utilizing online resources, and leveraging telehealth and other virtual options
    3. Understanding one’s medical condition and treatment options
    4. Affordability of care including co-pays, deductibles, transportation and time off work
    5. Providing a human touch by treating patients with respect and compassion
  3. Leverage customer insight data for improvement: Investing in analytical capabilities is crucial for evaluating and measuring access experience across different dimensions. Health care systems can improve by understanding how consumers and patients experience their services, studying data and listening to customer feedback. Customer journey analytics, qualitative voice-of-the-customer surveys, claims data-based journey analytics, and inputs from the frontline staff are all crucial data points. Similar to Amazon’s approach, these analytics should help identify where access barriers occur and guide efforts to remove them.
  4. Build ongoing improvement capabilities: Assembling multi-disciplinary teams comprising strategy, operations, marketing, business development and finance is essential for ongoing access improvement. These teams should have the authority to review access analytics, prioritize opportunities and deploy improvements. Agility and adaptability to the market environment are key to success.
  5. Measure ROI: To maintain investment and buy-in, it’s crucial to establish a consistent way of measuring the return on investment (ROI) of access improvements. Successful initiatives should see short-term volume and revenue increases, as well as long-term growth in lifetime customer value and average share of wallet.
The new health care landscape

The consumer-centric approach provides health care organizations with new tools and methodologies to improve access. By incorporating these new principles, health systems can meet the demands of the market and create the value that health care consumers expect and need. Transforming health care access is a journey that starts with recognizing the deep importance of access experience and creating a consumer-centric vision that can unite the organization and guide it on the path to success.

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