A New Point of View
This week we continue our series, What Patients Really Want.
As part of this series, I would like to introduce to you this week’s guest author, Amanda Gilchrist.
Amanda is, in my best estimation, an ‘expert healthcare consumer.’ Amanda will elaborate more in this week’s blog about her qualifications, and why I tend to rank her as an ‘expert healthcare consumer’ (my term not Amanda’s), so I will let Amanda share with you and not steal her thunder.
I hope you find this week’s blog engaging and especially enlightening – from a healthcare consumer’s perspective — as we explore the patient experience from a new point of view.
Email me, or better yet, leave comments in the comments section to let me know your thoughts.
Thank you for your continued readership!
Now, here’s Amanda Gilchrist:
Have you ever heard of the term lagniappe (sounds like lan-yap)?
The word lagniappe is new to me. As it turns out, I experience it on a regular basis and even search it out in my daily life.
It often determines where I eat, where I shop, and even where I enroll my kids for school. Have you ever paid for a dozen bagels, but received a thirteenth pro bono? That’s a lagniappe.
Let’s unpack it just a bit. Merriam Webster defines it as, “a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of purchase.” (1)
Vocabulary.com explains that its origin is from Spanish-speaking settlers when they arrived in the New World. They used the word la ñapa, meaning “the gift.” The term traveled down to New Orleans, Louisiana where Spanish and French mixed freely and became “lagniappe.” It’s still currently used in Louisiana to refer to a bonus from a merchant upon the time of a purchase. (2)
Lagniappe is not a commonly spoken word all over the nation, even so, the concept of exceeding customer/patient expectations has long been the gold standard of superior customer service. Lagniappe encapsulates this concept and is growing in popularity, particularly among American consumers and businesses.
The current-day market place is crowded and the competition for the customer’s time, attention, and resources is higher than ever.
Furthermore, with the wide pool of options within each business arena, the desires of the customer seem to be growing. Fonolo is in the business of improving the customer experience and in a recently published study listed 10 Things Customers Want and Expect from Your Customer Experience. (3)
1. They want you to understand their needs
2. They expect to have multiple options when contacting you
3. They need you to respond quickly
4. They crave a personalized experience
5. They want you to solve their problems
6. They wish you would listen to them
7. They like you to be proactive
8. They love to be surprised
9. They prefer saving time over money
10. They want you to give them consistent answers
Consumerism and Healthcare
Now those 10 items listed above represent some very high demands, yet as a consumer myself, I agree with every single one of them.
These are all expectations I carry with me into the grocery store, the car dealership, the bank, the donut shop, and even the doctor’s office.
The fact that healthcare is now in the world of consumerism may not be new news to you, but it’s a new concept to me as a consumer.
In an article published by ApolloMD, author Yogin Patel writes, “As the new paradigm of healthcare, the mission of service excellence is vital to cultivating patient engagement and integral to the long-term sustainability of every hospital and healthcare system in the country.” (4)
Now, more than ever, we have multiple options regarding healthcare from several nearby walk-in facilities, multiple pediatricians within the area, various highly-qualified specialists, or even urgent care clinics strategically located within my local grocery store and corner pharmacy.
In addition, consumers are spending more money than ever on healthcare. In an article titled, “24 Health Care Spending Statistics That Will Shock You in 2020,” published on August fourteenth of this year, author Evangelina Chapkanovska writes, “One of the most common reasons for declaring bankruptcy in the USA is medical debt.” (5)
As the mother of four children (one of which has Cerebral Palsy due to an anoxic brain injury), I’m no stranger to the rising costs of healthcare. The stakes are high all around, and consequently, so are my expectations of quality healthcare service.
As previously mentioned, my youngest child – Shepherd, suffered an accident when he was three months old that left him with a brain injury.
When he was six months old he developed a rare form of seizures called Infantile Spasms, and at the age of three years, he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.
He’s six years old now and there’s much to be grateful for – generally speaking, he’s a healthy and happy boy; but as you can imagine, we are in and out of the doctor’s office on a regular basis.
As his mother, and the main advocate for his health needs, it’s up to me to ensure he’s receiving the best care possible. This is a job I do not take lightly, nor do most mothers for that matter.
I am fortunate to live in a region of the country with no shortage of highly-qualified, well-trained, world-class doctors; my husband and I have developed and surrounded Shepherd with a wonderful team of specialists.
Just last week we had our routine three-month checkup with one of his specialists and I would like to share our experience with you as I think it was the perfect example of going above and beyond to meet the patient’s (aka consumer’s) expectations.
The particular doctor we were seeing that day treats Shepherd for his high muscle tone as a result of his brain injury. Upon examining him, she explains to me that the tone in his lower extremities seems to have increased and the tightness in his muscles is preventing him from making progress in his therapies. She then recommended we look into having a specialized, minimally-invasive surgery done to help loosen those muscles and allow for more mobility. She explained to me there are only two orthopedic surgeons in the country who perform the procedure and we would have to make arrangements to travel. This was surprising to me as, again, we live in a city known for world-class healthcare with many reputable physicians.
I bluntly asked her, “You’re telling me there’s no one in this area who will perform this surgery?”
This is the moment of the visit when she exceeded my expectations and extended a lagniappe to me.
She stood up, closed the door, and very respectfully, yet honestly explained to me that it was not in Shepherd’s best interest to take him to an orthopedic surgeon in the area, but that we needed to reach out to one of the two previously mentioned physicians.
She doubled down by saying, “That’s what I would do if he were my child.”
“That’s what I would do if he were my child.”
To a mother who is not a knowledgeable, trained, professional doctor, yet still highly concerned with her disabled son’s quality of life, this level of candidness was met with great appreciation. She knew what would ultimately benefit Shepherd and she prioritized that above all else. In fact, her gesture of honesty could even be perceived as risky or controversial to some. Yet, to me (the patient and consumer), it created a sense of trust that will ensure an ongoing relationship, a positive review, and therefore: future “business” for her.
The Most Important Thing
Not only is going the extra mile beneficial to your business, or healthcare organization, I’d go so far as to say it’s necessary for patient retention. There’s a lot of competition out there and if patients don’t find what they’re looking for, they can easily find it somewhere else.
In a recently published article titled, “Adapting to Rising Customer Expectations: The Key to Business Success“, author Simran Mohanty sums it up nicely by writing, “A great experience leads to satisfied, loyal customers, which increases repeat business and revenue. This also boosts your brand reputation and reduces customer churn. Understanding and catering to customers’ needs is perhaps the most important thing businesses can do to adapt to shifting customer expectations.” (6)
Speaking from the perspective of a healthcare consumer, I urge you to continue to study up on your patients, their expectations, and even your competition. How can you and your healthcare team go above and beyond now to enhance patient experience? Is it improving the friendliness of your office staff? Is it decreasing your call back time? Is it having a genuine and honest conversation with your patients regarding what’s truly best for their care, even if it doesn’t seem to benefit you or your practice in the short term?
Lagniappe in healthcare — food for thought.
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Jerry L. Stone