How To Create A Patient Journey Map

Before getting into the details on how to create patient journey maps, let’s start with a basic definition of what a patient journey map is and why it is important.

A patient journey map is a visual flow diagram that illustrates the process patients go through to achieve a goal, complete a treatment plan and/or ultimately achieve a desired outcome.  When done correctly, the patient journey map should be created from the patient’s perspective but also include the interests of all key stakeholders. Typically, the first iteration of the patient journey map considers different patient personas and captures the “current state” steps and activities.  Additional iterations of the patient journey map are created to include improvements and, most importantly, make the journey map “actionable”.   Important Note:  Your goal should be to journey map then quickly move to “journey manage” (more on that later).

The benefits of patient journey mapping are numerous.  Like other organizations that review their processes, health systems can take advantage of streamlining activities to comply with regulatory requirements, refine duties and eliminate waste - all of which can potentially reduce unwanted costs.  Health systems can further improve processes to enhance the customer (patient) experience.  We all know happy customers are good customers that will choose your brand again, share their positive experiences and refer friends – all of which increase revenue.  So, in summary, cost reduction and revenue growth are two of the major benefits of patient journey mapping.

So where should you start? Put on your patients’ shoes and get ready to walk their journey!  Remember to keep an open mind and make sure to ask “why” and “why not” all along the way.

For this article, let’s assume that we have been tasked to create a patient map for bariatric surgery patients.  Our goal is to increase the number of patients that successfully complete the bariatric surgery program including one year post-surgery support.  As most health systems know, there is a high percentage of patients that drop from the bariatric surgery program before ever making it to surgery so we will be focusing on improving the completion rate. 

Let’s begin.

1.     Learn & Concern Phase.  Logically, it makes sense to first think about what we refer to as the Learn & Concern Phase of a patient journey.  This is also known as the “Acquisition Phase”.  As consumer-patients, we typically begin our healthcare journeys as a result of learning about something that we feel we can relate to or we have independently developed an underlying concern.   For example, maybe I recently watched a bariatric surgery segment on 60 Minutes or I might be experiencing symptoms that could be related to my excessive weight.  Whatever the reason might be, I am now researching options.  I could be talking to family and friends.  I could be searching the internet.  I could make an appointment with my primary care physician.  It is at this point that health systems should be interested in capturing these “prospects” and assisting them in their educational journey.  Think about the where, when and how to support consumer-patients during this phase.  Think about the personas that are most important.  Do you communicate with patients on their preferred channels during their preferred times?  Ask “why” and “why not” questions.  Capture the steps and map the flow. 

2.     Patient Activation Phase.  Those health systems that do well in supporting consumer-patients during the Learn & Concern Phase have earned the opportunity to easily move to the Patient Activation Phase.   This may also be referred to as the “Conversion & Scheduling Phase”.  This is where “Patient Access” comes into play.  How easy is it for consumer-patients to do business with you?  Can they get general questions answered before making an appointment?  Is it easy to make an appointment?  Do available appointment times fit within patient schedules? Do you remind patients about appointments?  Do you help patients prepare?  Can patients complete forms online at their leisure? Do you provide directions/wayfinding? Capture the steps and map the flow.

3.     Provider Activation Phase. This is also referred to as the “Pre-Arrival Phase”.  What internal activities are underway to prepare for the first encounter?  Do you proactively reach out to welcome your new patients?  How do you help patients prepare for an appointment?  Are you interacting with valuable information? Do you confirm all the necessary forms and records are in place before the appointment? Capture the steps and map the flow.

 
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4.     Encounter Phase. The patient is now interacting with you face to face.  Are you supporting the patient’s needs?  Are you helping with transportation/driving directions?  Are you assisting with parking questions?  Are you assisting with wayfinding?  How easy and pleasant is the check-in process?  Are you managing patient expectations? What are the physical characteristics of your office and patient rooms?  Is the check-out process easy and pleasant?  Can the patient easily and quickly make future appointments?  What is the patient referral process like? Capture the steps and map the flow.

5.     Post-Encounter Phase. What is being done to support the patient after the encounter/between appointments?   How are you assisting patients with adherence to specific care plans or personal “to do” lists?  How often do you check in on the general well-being of patients?  How are you making sure the patient is progressing and still retaining an interest in achieving their goals?  Do you provide additional information or resources for the patient using their preferred channels – and at the right time?  How easy is it to make future appointments?  How do you handle follow up calls from the patients?  Do you have a patient-friendly portal for self-serve, self-activation tasks?  Capture the steps and map the flow.

6.     Patient Retention Phase.  Please make sure to spend time thinking about and mapping this portion of the patient flow.  Too many times this critical phase is done poorly or forgotten altogether. How do you thank your patients for their business?  How do you acknowledge their successes and reward them for making the right decisions? Are your patients treated like VIPs?  Are your patients brand advocates for your health system/providers?  Will patients choose your system/providers next time?  Capture the steps and map the flow.

Now, let’s take the next important step.  Transition from journey mapping to journey management.  After creating the first iteration of the patient journey map, challenge it.  How can the patient experience be improved?  How can the patient be supported better?  Is the patient monitored for engagement and contacted when drifting off course?  What can be done faster, better?  What can be changed?  What can be eliminated?  What can be added?  Capture the steps and map the flow.

Once you are happy with the future state map, make the journey map come to life.  Equip your team, your prospects and your patients with the tools, information and automation needed to create successful healthcare journeys.  Remember to support prospects and patients using their preferred channels, when they want it and how they want it.  Give them access to trusted information.  Give them access to patient-friendly tools.  Become their go-to wellness partner!

About the Author:  Sue Butler is the EVP, Client Success and co-founder of Customer Evolution, focused on advancing the consumerization of healthcare for a transformative health experience. With an extensive background in consumer-facing innovation that spans process improvement, experience management and product development, Sue has worked with clients in the fields of healthcare, insurance, financial services, technology services and hospitality.

About Customer Evolution: The Customer Evolution team is committed to helping health systems engage modern medical moms and digitally savvy patients in new, innovative ways. End²End™ was borne from our years of helping shape customer experiences and influence behavior outside of healthcare.  Our heritage serving world-class organizations such as Hilton, American Express, Chase, Wells Fargo and others cultivated a deep understanding of the proven methods which consistently deliver on the goals of experience and outcomes.  We combined this with the deep knowledge we have gained serving Tampa General, Henry Ford, Humana, Florida Blue and many more respected health institutions.  The result is a platform specifically designed to solving the journey management challenges facing health systems today. Learn more at www.customer-evolution.com.