How hospitals can improve patient experience

Do hospitals and healthcare providers have major market opportunities to capture in patient experience?

My short answer: Oh, yeah.

I find healthcare providers talk a lot about “consumerism,” i. e. taking a proactive approach to customer service in healthcare in line with what people today expect—and get—in retail. This contrasts with the common view that healthcare begins and ends with treatment and a positive outcome. Such a perspective overlooks opportunities in customer discovery and commitment to engage, which are crucial to patient experience.

Two factors accelerate the need to improve patient experience: risk of consumer defection (50 percent of patients will switch due to poor service),1 and low Net Promoter Scores (NPS)2, also known as likelihood to recommend. NPS scores for healthcare providers are on average one-third that of hotels.

Like hotels, providers serve a diverse clientele, and need to manage different expectation sets, not only between age groups but within them.

One health system asked about seniors: Who are they, and what do they need to hear from us to enroll in our Medicare plan? Realizing there are different types of seniors—based on factors such as activity level, desires from health services, digital familiarity and socializing habits—we had to examine their market. From a collaboratively developed design recognizing different types of seniors, we created a playbook to prioritize the best match for the health system and HMO. It enables personalized messaging, acquisition tactics and introductory experiences. The end result: a significant growth among seniors in Medicare Advantage and the launch of a new senior loyalty program.

We have also seen providers succeed by employing an omnichannel front door. Some patients, more often younger—although growing among older adults, too—want digital access to their provider. Some health systems offer digital scheduling, digital chat and personal contact as backup. Can an access system suit all preferences? My suggestion: Set it up for those who want to click, then make it easy for those who want to escalate to a call.

Improving patient experience is a team sport. It can be driven by the chief marketing officer, the CIO, even a designated chief experience officer. But it needs a commitment across the organization to take hold.

A recent success for a health system was introducing digital scheduling for their emergency department, followed by urgent care and other services. It was championed by the chief marketing officer in partnership with ambulatory services and hospital operations. The team was elated by the success and speed of connecting with new types of patients who book every other experience online.

Rarely do consumers wish to visit health organizations; healthcare is more of a service to avoid. If providers reduce stress points on the front and back ends, and create a process that is both easier and simpler for patients, the whole experience will be less of an avoidance activity for the customer.

1Accenture, “Patient Loyalty: It’s Up for Grabs,” 2016
2Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered
trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

Linda MacCracken

Principal Director – Consulting, Health, North America

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