The rise of consumer experience in healthcare

Improving the customer journey in healthcare is a top priority

By | 2 minute read | September 11, 2019

In response to changing consumer expectations across industries, improving the customer journey in healthcare is a top priority. But healthcare stakeholders often rank lower than other industries as it relates to consumer experience and satisfaction.1 Responding to healthcare consumer trends may seem daunting, but there are some fundamental places to begin.

Measuring consumer experience

Net Promoter Score (NPS) and other satisfaction metrics have become popular across healthcare as key outcomes of interest. Healthcare leaders are building NPS into executive performance measurement and using them as indicators of consumer loyalty. This overall measurement of consumer perception is important, in my opinion however, it can be coupled with more granular measurement of experience within specific consumer interactions.

Positive experiences have the potential to boost consumer engagement over time, while negative ones may erode it. Studies demonstrate the correlation of positive patient experience with adherence to treatment plans and greater attention to prevention and disease management.2 Watson Health aims to help clients better understand the relationships between experience, engagement and measures of health and cost, by integrating and analyzing varied sources of data.

Healthcare consumers ask: How much will this cost me?

Optimizing personalization

Personalization is best thought of as a spectrum, ranging from one-size-fits-all, to targeted population segmentation, to fully individualized. Optimizing the level of personalization should be the goal, versus maximizing it. It is valuable to understand where meaningful personalization opportunities exist, as well as have the ability to learn and adjust over time.

Analyses from IBM Watson Health’s Market Expert data can help understand what consumers value from their healthcare providers, ranging from quality, to communication, to caring. Even related to consumer use of technology, it shows there are groups of people who search for healthcare pricing online, while others are more interested in telehealth, yet others would rather use apps to manage their health. These levels of distinction can help better engage with consumers to help drive positive experiences.

Balancing high-tech with high-touch

Providers and payers want to balance the right combination of high-tech solutions with the need for high-touch human intervention. Consumers may want, and expect, digital technology solutions for transactions such as finding a doctor, making an appointment, accessing test results, paying a bill and refilling a prescription. However, this may not replace the need for high-touch interactions that make people feel known and confident.

Watson Health believes in delivering advanced technologies that have the potential to make both high-tech and high-touch interactions more effective. For example, Watson Assistant for Health Benefits uses AI so that health plans can provide a means for consumers to interact digitally in natural language to complete transactional tasks, such as checking coverage details, provider networks or deductible balance. However, the solution can also be used by member services agents and healthcare providers to quickly surface key information and insights, with the goal of alleviating administrative burden and enabling more interactive and personalized consumer support.

By committing to measuring consumer experience, optimizing personalization and balancing high-tech with high-touch, stakeholders across the health ecosystem can evolve successfully into the next era of consumer experience.

Learn more about how Watson Health can help employers, health plans and providers put these principles into practice.



  1. Forrester, The US Customer Experience Index,
  2. 2019AHRQ, Why Improve Patient Experience, 2018