I have developed a certain affection for the television shows Survivor, Naked and Afraid, and Life Below Zero. If you are not familiar with the shows, their premise is to determine who among the contestants has the inventiveness and mental toughness to exist on a diet of insects or to live when the average temperature is forty below zero.
Having slept on the glacial face of a volcano at seventeen thousand feet, I fancy the notion of competing on those shows. Give me a piece of twine and a pull-tab from a can of soda and I will construct whatever tool I need to survive.
So, last week our power was out for four days because of a thunder storm. Instead of having to hunt narwhales while wearing nothing other than my skivvies—don’t try to picture that in your mind, I was ensconced in my home; no air conditioning, no television, and having to fight my way around obstacles at night with nothing to guide me other than my wits and the light from me cell phone. The showers were cold, my soft drinks were warm. I survived the first two days with nary a scratch.
By day three the lettuce was wilting and so was I. I reflected on my not too distant halcyon days, days when I could sit in my air conditioned home and watch television shows about people trying to survive in a Brazilian dessert while eating grubs. It was then I decided that were I able to survive my own odyssey I would put aside my dreams of living a wilderness adventure and make due with mowing my lawn.
I have no segue for this post, so here we go.
Chances are your health system’s website is a clunky old thing designed by the elderly (people over the age of thirty.) The time to rethink what you want out of your website has come and gone; that train already left the station. The only way to play catch-up is to dump the sclerotic vision that defines your online presence, and figure out what your stakeholders expect from it.
People who visit your website have an experience, they just have a good one.
The best way to not have to measure patient experience is to design such a good, interactive online experience that measuring it would be redundant. Design these things into your website and you will have the most progressive health system on the planet.
- If half of your callers would rather have their needs met online, figure out how to let them do that. If you don’t know what they want to do online, ask them.
- If half of your patients will seek a second opinion, give them a link telling them why they should stick with you
- If half of your competitors’ patients are seeking a second opinion, give them a link telling them why they should pick you
- If twenty percent of your callers have questions about their bills, use co-browsing and online videos to explain your bills
- You know your patients are going to dispute their reimbursement, show them how to do that on your website; make videos explaining payer by payer how to do it
- If a percentage of your patients want to speak with a clinician, make sure they can. Heck, make sure they can do it at a time convenient to them, which probably will not fit the hours of your call center.
- If every single person who visits your website is either a patient or a potential patient, tailor all of its functionality to them—get rid of the other eighty links; links about the gift shop and posting baby photos online
- If you have a scheduling center instead of a real call center—80% of your calls are not about scheduling—create a real call center.
- Put a chat function on your website—how may I help you—and delete that silly contact us box that promises a response before the next full solar eclipse
- Let callers on hold enter their phone numbers instead of having to wait, and have the next available agent call them back
- Let call center agents email callers
- If someone contacts you through your website, respond to them within an hour
- Let people schedule appointments online
- Since a lot of people who are considering buying healthcare from your system visit your website, give them something to do when they get their—how about a customer portal where non patients can store and track their health data like they do with apps on their smart phone, a portal whose data you can monitor.
- Since only a fraction of your callers and website visitors are in your EMR, make sure you can meet the needs of everyone who isn’t—those people are called customers.
Prevent people from leaking at the start of their experience. Design an experience focused on keepage, not leakage. None of these features are difficult to accomplish using current technology.
If you do all of these things you will never have to worry about measuring patient experience. You will already know it is great. And maybe then we can ask why everyone in Washington is so concerned about building a wall to keep out the Canadians.