When continued federal funding required that 5% of patients be able to view or access their health records through a patient portal, many healthcare organizations cried foul. Rather than view the mandate as an incentive to provide digital services, healthcare organizations regard patient portals as an annoying, but required check box. The consistent argument is, “We can’t change patient behavior and get them to access their health records.”


I don’t buy it. Patients will use digital services if they’re good. However, they’re not.


Other industries have recognized the value of good digital services. For example, the continuous improvement of digital services by my bank, USAA, is a key contributor to my loyalty as a customer.


USAA, along with the rest of the financial services industry, did not create great digital services by accident. They relentlessly focused on customers and their needs. As healthcare organizations implement patient-facing digital services, here are a few key areas to focus on:


Suggestion 1: Be Useful and Easy to Use


I spend most of my life on the go. An app only becomes useful when I can conduct a transaction or find information faster or more conveniently. For example, with my USAA app, I can deposit checks using my phone’s camera, send funds anywhere, and use the secure digital wallet to provide credit card information for online purchases.


Most digital health services I’ve seen are hard to use and don’t add value. At their best, they allow patients to view upcoming appointments and retrieve recent lab results – both useless. A useful application would help me book an appointment with a few clicks, provide test results in context, and share parts of my medical record easily. Unfortunately, just registering for access is so cumbersome that most patients don’t even log in.


Kaiser Permanente has shown that digital health can work. Over half of their members use their online health platform. Why? It’s useful, integrated and easy to use.


Suggestion 2: Personalize the Experience


Most consumer-focused companies get it – personalization works. A great post by Eric Devaney at Hubspot highlights the two psychological underpinnings of why personalization is so important: it allows us to feel in control and acts as an information filter.


This is especially important in healthcare, where a patient’s sense of control is tied to clinical outcomes. Unfortunately, healthcare organizations tend to sacrifice personalized digital experiences in the name of privacy. To address the issue, organizations can offer privacy controls, but default to using and providing patient information to remain relevant.


Suggestion 3: Be Secure, yet Accessible


As a digital health enthusiast, I’m willing to try almost any new health technology. The one detractor is authentication. If I can’t fix my password within 2 minutes, I become old fashioned and call my doctor’s office.


I used to have the same problem with my banking app, but they listened to their users. Now, my app knows that I am using my iPhone and allows me to use voice, facial recognition or a digital PIN to authenticate. Problem solved. In contrast, I had to make an appointment with a social worker and register in person for digital access to my health records.


Good Customer Journey Engineering = Patient Loyalty


It’s well established – a good digital experience drives loyalty. The finance and consumer goods industries have it figured out. While healthcare has a long way to go, digital pioneers consistently have high net promoter scores.



Trust will always be the top customer satisfaction driver in healthcare. If digital health services are not useful, personalized and accessible, will they garner or detract a patient’s trust? If they don’t meet these criteria at least, services may actually make a patient experience worse, rather than better.


Sean Lunde

Sean Lunde



#digitalheath enthusiast. #Harvard #InciteHealth fellow. #Wipro Healthcare. experimental cook. Boston Harbor sailor. design

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