WHPRMS July Blog: At the Center of the Patient Journey: My Lyme Disease Rollercoaster

It’s been a wild few weeks! I’m feeling better now and thankful for excellent healthcare, health insurance, and for early detection. I’m also thankful that I can write this blog about the patient journey with fresh insight generated by recent, first-hand experience.

The health tech company Odoro defines the Patient Journey as the ongoing sequence of care events which a patient follows from the point of access into the health system, continuing towards diagnosis and care and ending in outpatient care. They remind us that the journey is cyclical, a never-ending interaction of care events occurring between the patient and their provider.

My patient journey occurs within the UW Health system. What I thought was a mosquito bite became infected. I thought nothing of it until I developed flu-like symptoms on July 3. By this time, the bite looked ugly and characteristic of a brown recluse spider bite. During a tele-health visit to an Urgent Care NP, I was prescribed antibiotics. Four courses later, I felt worse and the redness around my sore had grown in size from golf ball to softball. A call to my PCP office directed me to the ER, and from there I became an inpatient. With the proper diagnostic blood work and IVs directed at the tick-borne bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, I was discharged two days later. Now, I’m an outpatient awaiting my follow-up appointment at my PCP’s office. Quite the patient experience with many, many touch points along the way!

If you were to create a patient journey map throughout my Lyme Disease illness and recovery, you would better understand each of my interactions with the health system. Knowing and understanding each contact can help to create strategic outcomes that improve patient satisfaction and engagement. It also better defines where strategic outreach can or should occur, resulting in satisfied patients like me.

Evariant describes six stages of the patient journey:

  1. Trigger Event/Awareness: The patient self-assesses his or her symptoms, conducts research, considers potential health conditions that may require treatment, and may even reach out to online communities (posing questions on social media, etc.)
  2. Help: The patient makes initial contact with a health system via call center, chat, email, mobile, or an in-person visit
  3. Care: The patient is assessed at a medical facility (physician’s office, hospital, etc.)
  4. Treatment:  The health system provides the patient with both on-site and follow-up care (prescriptions, physical therapy, counseling, or suggested lifestyle changes)
  5. Behavioral/Lifestyle Change: The patient makes changes to daily routines and takes part in proactive healing in order to reduce readmissions and promote long-term wellbeing
  6. Ongoing Care/Proactive Health: The patient manages his or her care between clinical visits; meanwhile, the health system fosters engagement between the patient and physician in order to enable the patient to address symptoms and maintain good health

Not surprisingly, I can track my recent patient journey with UW Health according to these six stages. When my symptoms began, I searched UW Health’s online resources, contacted my provider via electronic messaging, sought tele-health care, received appropriate medical treatment and am now scheduled for a follow-up visit with my PCP. I am fortunate that I got great care and overall, was extremely satisfied with the entire process.

Those healthcare providers that want to keep their competitive edge must continually drive engagement throughout the entire patient journey. This means creating a journey map for every interaction occurring — from the early education and awareness stage to physician interaction to appointment follow-ups and reminders for continued care.

Patient journey mapping is a useful strategy to employ during any healthcare engagement campaign. Consider each stage described above, from awareness of symptoms or the desire to be seen, to the ongoing treatment and follow-up. Mapping the many pathways throughout the engagement cycle based on service line, patient demographics, or market segment, healthcare marketers gain a more thorough understanding of care priorities and opportunities for ongoing communication and engagement, including timely provider intervention. Appropriate and timely communication ensures the patient remains satisfied and engaged throughout treatment and during the ongoing and preventative care phases.

With this approach, patients become more invested in their long-term health and wellbeing.

A continual stream of helpful and positive communication tailored to the touchpoints of the patient journey reinforces loyalty throughout the cycle.

I believe UW Health successfully managed each interaction in my Lyme Disease patient journey. I consider myself a recovered, satisfied patient and remain loyal to my provider of choice. I encourage all providers to message clearly and concisely how best patients like me can quickly and appropriately navigate the system of care when needed.

In addition to those mentioned above, resources to assist you with patient journey mapping are found here:

Journey Mapping:  Creating Actionable Journey Maps to Define Customer Value

How to Create a Customer Journey Map

An Introduction to Patient Journey Mapping


James Shulkin is a WHPRMS fellow and has been a member since 1999. He is the principal at Windflower Consulting.

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