The Importance of Patient Flow Mapping

By Paul Meade, Patient Engagement Lead 

Healthcare providers and life sciences companies are increasingly looking for ways to improve patient engagement. In the past, many organizations would simply distribute a satisfaction survey and call it a day. Nowadays, we have vastly more effective tools for both measuring the patient experience and determining ways to increase patient engagement. One of these tools comes in the form of patient flow mapping.

Defining the Process

If you’re not already familiar with the concept of a patient flow map, an easy way to visualize it is if a patient were to strap a camera to their head and record everything they go through, from when they step into the healthcare system, to the moment they return home. We’re trying to get an accurate snapshot of exactly what happened to a patient during their healthcare journey. Due to privacy and financial constraints, having each patient wear a GoPro camera during their time in a hospital isn’t a viable option for collecting data. Instead, what we do is look for all the touchpoints where the patient interacts with a healthcare professional. Through in-depth surveys and interviews, we gather information from providers about how a patient moves through the healthcare system and what happens at each stop.

Journey Complexity  

While some medical visits are simple and patients only see one or two physicians, others can be incredibly intricate and involve dozens of touchpoints. For example, if a patient were to be admitted to the emergency room experiencing severe chest pain and heart palpitations, they’re going to be seen by an emergency specialist, a cardiology consult, and an internal medicine consult. After that, they will likely be put through multiple diagnostic tests scattered across different wards of the hospital. By the end of their journey, they will have spoken to dozens of healthcare workers and gone through countless procedures. When creating a patient flow map for this particular experience, we need to document who’s interacted with and/or directly treated the patient. Additionally, we need to know what medical decisions were made and who made the decisions.

Addressing The Emotional Journey

Prescribing the right treatment to a patient is incredibly important, but it’s also vital to properly address their emotional needs. Tracking a patient’s journey from admittance into a healthcare facility to the final outcome can help your organization get a better idea of what the patient is going through, and how to meet their unique needs. A classic example is when a patient is given an unfavorable diagnosis and as the physician continues speaking, many patients tend to tune everything out because they’re in shock. Everyone responds to bad news differently, so it’s imperative that providers be aware of this phenomenon and know how to address it.

Engaged Patients Are Good For Business

There’s a growing body of research that has shown that when a patient is more engaged in their treatment, they tend to have better health outcomes. To increase patient engagement, it’s important to collect data that shows how providers are interacting with patients and what could be done more effectively. In the past, a majority of medical decisions were made behind the scenes, and the patient did not take an active part in deciding which treatment plan to pursue. Now, we’re seeing that more physicians are involving their patients in their healthcare decisions. When there’s an open dialogue about which treatments are available and which will work best for their particular health concerns, the patient will feel more involved in their care. By creating patient flow maps, your organization can identify which providers are actively engaging their patients in the decision-making process and which ones are not.

A Reality Check for Treatment Guidelines

Another benefit of performing patient flow mapping is that it will help you assess whether treatment guidelines are accurate or not. Having this valuable data regarding a patient’s health journey can help you quantify what treatments patients are receiving, and how that varies across regions and countries. Academic treatment guidelines aren’t always an accurate representation of what patients are going through.

Learn More

Creating patient flow maps can seem time-consuming and complicated, but our team at Thought Leader Select is here to assist your organization in understanding the flow of patients in your therapeutic area. Please contact us today to learn how we can help to improve your patient engagement through in-depth research and data analysis.

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