Experian Health has released findings from its annual State of Patient Access survey that explores the digital “front door” experience from both the patient and provider perspective. Results reveal the healthcare industry’s patient-centric and digital momentum since the pandemic has stalled or become worse since last year. Still, providers are optimistic more progress will come in 2023.

Are providers and patients on the same page?

Overall, results show that both providers and patients want access functions such as scheduling and registration that are streamlined and efficient. They also agree digital services are not improving; when asked if the experience accessing healthcare is better or worse since the prior year only 17% of patients surveyed say better while only slightly more providers (27%) agree.

Some of the most important digital services for patients that drive a positive experience include being able to schedule appointments online or via a mobile device (76%), having an online/mobile option for payments (72%), and more digital options for managing healthcare (56%).

For providers, the realization that a better patient access experience results in better business outcomes seems to be nearly universal. Unfortunately, nearly half (47%) of providers surveyed say things have gotten worse over the past two years. Still, providers feel positive about change coming with 45% of respondents indicating probable or definite improvement expectations this year.

“The pandemic accelerated the use of technology and digital services at an unprecedented pace - which is a positive step forward - but it also created high expectations from patients that providers are struggling to keep up with as they return to business as usual,” said Clarissa Riggins, Chief Product Officer at Experian Health. “The survey results indicate that focusing on and expanding digital services is a challenge for providers, with new issues seemingly always around the corner that divert their efforts. But the findings also demonstrate that they understand the importance and benefits of an easy and seamless digital experience. Hopefully, we’ll see an ongoing focus on delivering these services for the long-term.”

Providers aim to continue progress

For most patients, the primary challenge of access is speed. “Seeing a practitioner quickly” has stayed at No. 1 on the patients’ “most challenging” list for the past three years, trending up every year. In addition to seeing a practitioner quickly, other top patient challenges included trying to schedule appointments, scheduling appointments with a specialist, and knowing where to go for needed care.

On the provider side, respondents want to reduce friction at the front end of the patient journey. However, the top five impediments revealed to improving access overall are:

  • Staffing shortages
  • Patient confusion caused by the pandemic
  • Producing cost estimates
  • Lack of staff training
  • Implementing digital/mobile solutions

The good news is there has been progress since the first survey in 2020; some efforts by providers, like expanding telehealth, adding text communications, and launching or expanding patient portals, have increased each year. The effort will continue with 46% of provider respondents saying they expect their organizations to invest more in the next six months. Many providers see the benefits with 57% saying that digital/mobile solutions have improved the patient experience. More than a third of those surveyed agree that automation is beneficial, indicating that more use of technology such as artificial intelligence could be on the horizon.

To meet evolving needs and simplify healthcare, Experian Health offers providers patient engagement solutions and recently launched AI Advantage, an artificial-intelligence-powered product to help providers with the claims process to reduce claim denials and recoup more lost dollars post-denial.

To access the free report, visit here.