A leading rehabilitation center is transforming the patient experience by leveraging augmented reality in a unique and remarkable way.
Customer expectations have evolved rapidly in the last 5 years. Transformed in large part by the pandemic, customer experience has gone from a corporate buzzword to a cornerstone of best-in-class service. Customers want to feel both informed, empowered and supported, and they expect personalized service on the channel of their choice.
Service organizations, by and large, are eager and willing to meet customer expectations. However, due to challenges stemming from the workforce shortage, such as skills gaps, worker burnout, and low employee engagement and retention, service leaders are also investing more and more in technology, including augmented reality (AR), to provide efficient service with fewer resources. The 2023 Service Leader’s Agenda survey found that 61% of service and customer support leaders expect their year-over-year investment in technology to increase this year. Additionally, when we further asked what technology they were prioritizing in terms of investments, 31% said AR.
As organizations turn their digital transformation efforts towards doing more with less, another challenge has emerged. How can they leverage technology to enhance customer and employee experience, increase efficiency, and still delivering meaningful and personalized interactions? Perhaps no vertical in the service industry understands this challenge better than healthcare.
Consumerization and the Patient Experience
Recently, the Service Council hosted the Smarter ServicesTM webinar, How ExamMed & Shepherd Center are Exploring Healthcare Transformation with AR. During the webinar, Service Council’s CEO John Carroll was joined by Debbie Backus, Vice President of Research and Innovation at Shepherd Center, Faraz Zubairi, CEO of ExamMed, and Sam Waicberg, President of CareAR. Together, the panel discussed how Shepherd Center, with the help of ExamMed and CareAR, is leveraging augmented reality (AR) in a way that amplifies the human component, while still delivering efficient and empowered service.
Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Shepherd Center is nationally ranked as one of the top rehabilitation hospitals in America. Founded in 1975, the hospital treats more than 743 inpatients, 277 day program patients and more than 7,161 outpatients each year. Shepherd Center’s goal is to deliver more than just medical care to their patients. They want to deliver an experience that brings healing, hope, independence and dignity, while promoting safety and injury prevention.
While Shepherd Center is a world-renowned facility, Debbie says that the issues they face with patient experience are very similar to those of service leaders, “In healthcare, patients want to be able to have choices in the care they receive. They want quick results, but they also want to have access and the ability to decide what treatment they’re going to get.”
Faraz, founder of ExamMed, an award-winning and nationally recognized platform that connects patients, providers, and caregivers, echoes Debbie’s sentiments, “It comes down to two words: Comfort and trust. Healthcare is becoming consumerized in the sense that patients are expecting the same conveniences that they have with their banking apps. Being able to drive towards a delivery model that fosters and strengthens comfort and trust will help drive outcomes in a much more meaningful and measurable way.”
The Challenges of Remote Patient Care
Together with ExamMed, CareAR will provide Shepherd Center with a virtual care management platform that will provide a holistic support offering for patients and streamline their journey. The result will allow care providers to assess patients’ home environment, identify problems when they occur and intervene faster if possible.
As Debbie explains, the positive effects this will have on patients’ lives will be huge. “Being able to use AR to really understand what that environment looks like might mean the difference between patients having to stay in their wheelchair or in their bed all day, and being able to get up and interacting with their friends and family.”
A particularly unique feature will be the ability to measure and fit patients for wheelchairs virtually, a process traditionally done in person. In this healthcare use case, CareAR augmented reality enables a remote expert to visually grasp how each patient can best take advantage of assisted device features with precise graphical guidance using standard smartphones and tablets. This immersive visual engagement eliminates language and jargon barriers to ensure best fit personalized results for every patient. According to Sam, this scenario highlights the true power of AR to transform patient experience. “For patients, there’s a lot of time, effort and resources involved in coming into the clinic. To be able to instantly engage virtually with somebody in a way that allows them to start on their patient journey while still in their home, and get the context needed to accelerate their care is really powerful.”
However, it isn’t just the patient experience that will be impacted by the new platform. Care providers want to provide best-of-class care, but they are often limited by factors such as capacity issues or lack of access to pertinent information. In this way, frontline agents are much the same. Preliminary findings from the 2023 Voice of the Field Service Engineer survey found that 87% of frontline agents gain the greatest job satisfaction from solving customer problems. When asked what they liked least about their job, 1 in 4 said it was time spent looking for information. In a nutshell, frontline agents want to help customers but don’t feel like they are being empowered with the information to do so.
Workforce and talent shortages are widespread throughout the entire service industry, from manufacturing to healthcare. Technologies such as AR and other information platforms will play a critical role in training, upskilling, employee engagement and retention. Says Faraz, “as a technology and service delivery platform, it’s on us to help give service providers the tools that they need so they have the right information at the right time to make the right decisions.
The Future of Healthcare is AR
While Shepherd Center is at the beginning of their journey, they are already thinking about the potential that AR possesses for remote healthcare. According to Debbie, the technology CareAR is providing could allow Shepherd Center to treat patients who currently are not able to travel to the clinic for financial or geographical reasons. “The remote opportunities that AR provides, especially when it comes to tele-rehabilitation, would allow us to get those people the care they need.”
Always forward-thinking, CareAR is already in discussions with Shepherd Center and ExamMed to look into additional opportunities to improve and expand on the patient experience. Says Sam, “While healthcare is a new frontier for us, it’s incredibly exciting to help deliver a better patient experience, and the possibilities for AR to do that are endless.”
Debbie agrees, saying that the intention is for AR’s impact to extend far beyond the walls of Shepherd Center. “We hope that we’re going to break down barriers for our patients so that when they go home, wherever they go, they’re going to have what they need to age gracefully with their disability.”
Reflecting on their innovation journey so far, and the roadmap that lays ahead, Debbie says the key to success is to never lose sight of the patient. “The patient is our north star. As we embark on this journey, we always think about each individual, what their needs are, what their possible barriers are, and what we can do to help.”