The Affordable Care Act has introduced potentially 20 million Americans to the health coverage pool, a trend that’s changing the face of healthcare. One of the most critical aspects to rising demand is the consumer-centric view of patients.
Is the mere word “patient” an anchor that’s keeping your healthcare organization from successfully navigating the rapidly changing waters of healthcare? Every ship needs an anchor, but used at the right time and the right place. “Patients” are sometimes disenchanted by the fact that they’re not valued as consumers. Even so, the term “patient” certainly helps many healthcare providers put their focus where it belongs: on the wellbeing of those for which they provide care. “Customers” on the other hand may want certain medical procedures or medications that are not medically necessary. To completely ignore the patient’s wants and desires is a disservice to both the patient and to your healthcare business. For those healthcare professionals that are completely locked into the traditional ‘patients-are-patients’ paradigm, they may be missing an opportunity to partner with their patient/customers to improve the patient experience; indeed, the customer’s experience.
“At healthcare offices and hospitals around the nation, the debate on the positives and negatives of referring to a patient as a customer continues”. (Patient vs. Customer: Can a Simple Term Affect Patient Safety?, by Tracey Hups).
Healthcare organizations of all kinds are taking a fresh look at delivery of care, service quality, workflow, patient flow, technological support (patient portals), and even their pricing structures when possible, so that each are examined from the patient’s perspective, in a consumer-focused way. When it comes to customer service and quality care, successful healthcare organizations are attentive to patient needs, but not at the expense of providing outstanding service to the customer.
“If providers can improve patient outcomes, they can sustain or grow their market share. If they can improve the efficiency of providing excellent care, they will enter any contracting discussion from a position of strength. Those providers that increase value will be the most competitive.”, (Harvard Business Review, The Strategy That Will Fix Health Care, Michael E. PorterThomas H. Lee, MD)
Feedback: A Cure for Subjectivity
“It’s not as if patients stop being consumers – customers – when they put on a hospital gown”. -- Forbes, Improving The Hospital Patient Customer Experience: It's About More Than HCAHPS Scores.
Patients/customers hold the key to healthcare organizations’ success. To truly understand what the patient/customer thinks about their care, patient/customer feedback must be gathered intelligently, and then, used effectively. Not only should patients/customers be asked about their overall experience, each component of the patient experience is important. Physicians, nurses, and other staff at the front line are interacting with patients/customers and each are engaged in personal interactions that make a difference. Each plays an enormously important role in making sure that the patient encounter is etched in the patient’s/customer’s mind as a memorable, favorable experience, which raises the level of patient loyalty.
Measuring, Monitoring, and Maximizing
Placing figurative stethoscopes on each of the vital components of the patient experience allows healthcare decision makers to better understand what works and what doesn’t work. An MIT survey found that top performing organizations use business analytics to help differentiate themselves from the competition. Furthermore, top performing organizations approach business operations differently as it relates day-to-day operations -- top performing organizations were twice as likely to use analytic insights to actually guide day-to-day operations. Just having an analytics platform available to operating managers with all the interesting graphics, tables of data, and stoplight reports, will not, by itself, effect positive change. Teaching analytics competency across the organization is the key. Part of competency involves knowing what to do with the information once you have it, and then acting on that knowledge. Having patient/customer feedback on-demand, and in real-time, and teaching front-line managers how to effectively manage with that real-time information is the key to putting patient/consumer feedback (analytics) to work for your organization. Using real time patient experience feedback allows service recovery to happen just hours following a service failure, fostering improved patient satisfaction, increased customer loyalty, and a better overall patient experience.
Diagnosing Causes, not Symptoms
Think of analytics as the first signs of symptoms that point to a potential root cause. Even after the symptoms are known, having that data without the ability to accurately analyze, and ultimately act on the data, is useless. However, in the hands of a skilled professional data/information/analytics; they hold great power. The MIT survey found that one out of three organizations don't know how to turn data into action.
A Deloitte study, had this to say, “What will help is the ability to turn insight into action…Giving data to untrained staff, working in an unprepared culture, is careless and dangerous like giving matches to children—they may be able to get a flame, but it often ends up in tears.”
Even good data in the hands of well-intended managers becomes worthless unless it’s acted upon. A company that promotes analytics competency embraces the use of data/information/analytics such that decision makers know what to do, and are encouraged to act. Acting on sound analytics is the difference between success or not.