By Rick Halton, VP of Product & Marketing, Lumeon 

Many people in healthcare think about “patient experience” as what a patient experiences within the four walls of a healthcare institution. It’s like the patient doesn’t exist before and after they come in for care — the organization simply isn’t set up to manage an ongoing relationship, despite that being the best way to ensure good outcomes.

But what if a different model were possible? Imagine if patients could be in communication with their healthcare providers throughout the entire process of their care — when preparing for visits, shuttling from specialist to specialist, undergoing treatments, recovering at home afterwards, and coming in for follow-ups.

Imagine if providers had tools that would allow them to not only communicate with the patient but to guide them both through the right process at the right time. This is called care pathway management (CPM), and it is the future of care delivery.

A great analogy for this is modern air travel. Think of the health system as an airport and the patient as a passenger. When we travel by air these days, the airline notifies us about our upcoming reservation, reminds us to check-in, offers us rental car and hotels, lets us know if the flight is on time, and tell us which gate to go to. Our bags disappear from our care and (usually) show up right on time at our destination, even if we’ve changed planes. If we do change planes, we are alerted to any gate changes and are able to hitch a ride on a cart through the airport if needed.

There are so many moving parts, yet it feels seamless and simple. Although multiple stakeholders own various elements of the journey – from the booking engines to airport operators, air traffic controllers and the airlines themselves – the aviation industry has perfected this orchestration.

A healthcare institution equipped with this type of organizational and operational capacity would escort patients through their care, providing the right inputs and coordination at the right times to optimize the entire process, and empowering patients to be partners in the process.

Let’s apply this model to pre-surgical optimization. With CPM in place, healthcare providers can screen patients upfront to understand each particular patient’s needs. They can order the right tests in plenty of time and record care preferences ahead of surgery. They can communicate with the patient about what to do to prepare for surgery and to answer questions. Low-risk patients can be fast-tracked to receive care sooner while high-risk patients can get the extra attention they require. The clinical team can be brought into this process at the moments when their presence or expertise are most advantageous, freeing up their time to concentrate on robust patient care.

In this scenario, patients are being listened to, attended to, and seen by their healthcare providers, sometimes for the first time in their lives. They are explicitly empowered to be involved in their care, to learn the details, and to initiate contact when they have questions and concerns.

As a care orchestration platform, Lumeon’s job is to bring together all the component pieces that it takes to make an organization patient-centric. We can screen patients before they even get to the health system. We can personalize the specific needs of each patient so that they go through their own optimal pathway. When the passenger lands and needs to get to a connecting flight, we know whose bag we have to pick up, where it is, and where it needs to go.

Eventually, we’d love our healthcare institutions to handle operational complexity as smoothly as airports. But right now health systems are very much in the “airfield” stage. The patient lands, and then what? The technology has not been built to enable health organizations to conduct full orchestration.

The solutions are coming online, but health system administrators must recognize that they need it and understand how it works in order to adopt it. With automated care pathway management in place, health systems can better manage the effects of better patient engagement, with the ultimate goal of providing better care.