Improving the Patient Journey in Behavioral Health and Human Services

Close up shot of a woman wearing a bonnet and smiling

The patient journey in health care, including behavioral health, is a care plan designed for the patient's experience. As a system, the patient journey has to be planned, analyzed or examined, and revised. Planning patient journeys starts with considering the patient's point of view by asking questions like: How can I meet my patients where they are? At what touchpoints will the patient reach out? What will the patient need or want from their provider at each touchpoint? 

Understanding the role of the patient journey in delivering exceptional patient experiences is essential, as is knowing about the types of patient journeys and various touchpoints along the way. What’s more, creating patient journeys that utilize digital tools can create a seamless experience.

The Role of the Patient Journey in Patient Experiences

Terrific patient experiences are considered top drivers in delivering quality care and improved health outcomes. The hallmarks of these experiences are centered around the patient and include predictive, preventive, personalized, and participative care. To produce successful patient outcomes, providers need to understand the patient journey and use that knowledge to deliver hyper-targeted, highly satisfying experiences. 

Patient journey mapping, also known as health care project planning, is used by industry professionals to understand how patients engage with a hospital or health care system throughout their treatment journey. Successfully planning a patient journey requires consideration of each journey type or phase.

Pre-visit, point of service, and post-visit are the three primary phases of the patient journey. Understanding these patient journey types or phases can allow your clinic to identify possible pain points and care gaps so you can create techniques to improve the patient experience.

Understanding the type of journey you’re providing at each phase can also help you improve organizational inefficiencies. Health care systems can even save money by focusing on the care journey as a way to improve patient experience — for example, by reducing the time from diagnosis to treatment.

Top 4 Touchpoints During the Patient Journey

Patient journey: patients comforting a man while at a group therapy

A touchpoint is a point of contact or interaction between a business or service and its consumer. To be most effective, each touchpoint should reflect, reinforce, and reiterate the precise value you offer in the health care experience. 

1. Search: Being everywhere at once

Increasingly in health care, including behavioral health, the first opportunity to make an appearance in your patient's journey is to appear when and where they search for you online. It may seem impossible, but meeting your patients where they are is critical. 

It begins with knowing your patients. One way to get to know your patients is by creating a patient persona. By developing a profile of the ideal patient for each of your services, you can better target your search marketing efforts. 

Along with using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to attract patients to your website with engaging, trustworthy content, focusing your efforts on social media may offer the most significant return on investment.

For behavioral health professionals, using social media as a key touchpoint may seem controversial, given the potential adverse effects caused by over-exposure. But it's helpful to think of social media as an entry-level marketing activity designed to make patients aware of your services, skills, and unique value proposition. (We’ll later delve into ContinuumCloud’s CaredFor app, which can introduce your patients to an insulated social media environment designed to be therapeutic.)

2. Create a frictionless appointment process

Minimizing friction at each touchpoint is essential to meeting patient expectations and ensuring they follow through. Think about your patient at this touchpoint, and attempt to anticipate their frustrations — from limited choices in the marketplace and coverage concerns to appointment availability or wait times. Here, you can smooth the path for your patients to reach you. In addition to helpful FAQ pages on your website, consider a live chat option so that prospective patients can get answers to pressing questions or leave you a message during off-hours. 

Automating the patient appointment workflow can help care providers improve the customer experience at this touchpoint. We also know that self-scheduling empowers patients, enabling them to take more responsibility for their behavioral health. 

For patients, time spent on hold to schedule appointments, request referrals, or pay bills by traditional means can take too much time from their day. ContinuumCloud's patient portal allows patients to conveniently perform these tasks from their smartphone or computer.

3. Streamline communications

It's no surprise that today's patients expect follow-up communication after being discharged from the hospital. But it goes beyond the post-discharge environment; some health care organizations have found that all patients anticipate follow-up communication from care providers within 48 hours of seeing them in the office, and patients belonging to younger generations want a text-based follow-up. 

Consistent patient interaction through technology can improve the patient experience by allowing clinicians to address concerns as they emerge throughout the patient journey rather than simply at the conclusion. What's even more intriguing is that when requested, most clients will leave a review for future patients to find. The more patient evaluations a medical facility receives, the more accurate its internet reputation becomes — showcasing what it has to offer and the quality of patient treatment.

ContinuumCloud recognizes that traditional communication workflows between the health care system, health care providers, and patients lack functionality and need streamlining because they are inefficient and time-consuming. To address this problem, ContinuumCloud created multiple communication modules built into a comprehensive EHR system — and even more within the CaredFor patient engagement platform. Both systems allow HIPAA-compliant patient communication methods, including SMS (text messaging), direct chat, email, and messaging automation.

4. Extend the continuum of care: Building a safe online community

Taking advantage of opportunities during the post-visit touchpoint is especially important to improving patient satisfaction surrounding follow-up and also for extending the continuum of care. This phase of the patient journey can be maintained when your behavioral health care organization can integrate treatment into many post-visit activities available on the CaredFor app.

You can provide patients with an online community powered by a patient engagement platform that connects, engages, and influences them. Patients may join CaredFor once they have become clients. Once a member, they can experience a moderated, safer-than-social-media platform with ContinuumCloud's mobile patient engagement app. Use the platform to create group therapy sessions, initiate telehealth services, and provide opportunities for feedback.

Care Journeys: Frictionless Experiences Using Digital Solutions

Patient journey: woman happily looking at a laptop

To extend the paradigm of patient journey mapping to include the use of digital tools, ContinuumCloud recently introduced Care Journeys

Care Journeys aim to optimize traditional treatment and improve service delivery. Patient care providers can create highly-targeted and engaging patient journeys by integrating their clinical care plans into a digitized format. What the patient receives is akin to a digital patient journey or computerized roadmap. They will see treatment and programming goals, milestones, and personalized notifications availing them of more tools and resources as needed. 

The CaredFor app is where you’ll access the new Care Journeys feature. The module is powered by ContinuumCloud automation that allows providers to create a digital experience with individualized steps designed to be delivered to each patient at a set frequency. Care Journeys enhance the patient experience between sessions (post-visit) and fuel patient retention efforts and may include alums, family, and caregivers to keep everyone engaged after formal treatment has ended. 

In a post-pandemic world, patients prefer remote health care services. When integrated into the remote care experience, Care Journeys can enhance the use of telehealth interventions. When care plans or pathways are applied to a remote behavioral health care process, patient access to care improves in all settings.

Choose ContinuumCloud to Take the Patient Journey to the Next Level

The patient journey is vital to providing a stellar patient experience, which drives the delivery of high-quality behavioral health care. Learning how to reach your patients where they are is an excellent starting point for building satisfying patient journeys. Use various touchpoints to capitalize on each opportunity for connection. Choosing the right tools is also crucial.

ContinuumCloud allows care providers to create and deliver targeted digital patient care plans that include exclusive access to tools and resources for a frictionless patient experience. Connect with us today to learn more about building and implementing the next-level patient journey your clients desire.

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