Patient Experience Management: For Adults Only

This post is the first in a series that may make you rethink everything you think you know about Patient Experience Management.

Last week I checked in to a hotel for three days; seventy-two hours.  I was at the hotel for an event that required ninety minutes; one-and-half hours.

A few weeks prior to my stay someone told me where I had to be, how long I would be there, and what I would be doing.  My reservation was made, and I sorted out how I would get to the hotel.

The check-in process was flawless.  My room was ready.  My wakeup calls were timely. The room was serviced daily.  Plates with food arrived.  Plates without food departed.  The requirements for my ninety minute event were met and I was escorted to the correct room.

On hour seventy-two I checked out of the hotel and I received a copy of my bill.  The last thing I encountered was having someone asking me how my experience was.

Try thinking the remainder of this discussion through with me.

Of the seventy-two hours I was at the hotel only two percent of it (1.5 hours) had to do with my reason for being at the hotel—the presentation I was giving at the HFMA.

So, you may ask, how did it go?  The speech or the stay at the hotel.  Two different experiences.  Let us say that my speech tanked, or that people couldn’t find the room, or that the projector did not work.  If someone asked me, how “was your speech,” I might conclude by saying, “The speech was awful, but the hotel was great.”

On the other hand, what if the hotel lost my prepaid reservation, was only able to give me one night instead of two, made me sit in the lobby for two hours because my room wasn’t ready, could not get the air conditioning working in my room, and then billed me for two nights instead of one.

If that was the case I would conclude that my experience was awful, and I would go out of my way to let everyone know about it.

To those who want to argue that a hospital is not a hotel I will concede the point.  However, I will argue that for those who actually wish to significantly improve patient experience management that much of the improvement can be made by treating it as a hotel, and by treating your patients as guests.

For the time being, let us agree to have this discussion separate and apart from the Emergency department—we will address the ED in a later post.

The patient experience, which many claim to be managing, may be grouped into two parts—the treatment, and then everything else that happens to you from the time you schedule your visit to the time when you finish paying you bill.

Most patients fully expect their experience of their treatment will be very positive—that is why they came to the hospital.  Patients know that for treatable issues they will leave the hospital better than when they entered.  Therefore, it is a given that they will rate their treatment experience as a positive one.  A positive treatment is considered de rigueur.

However positive, the patient often views their treatment experience as the result of the procedure they underwent.  If they came in for their gall bladder and leave without their left leg, no amount of explaining how well the amputation went will convince them their experience was positive.

Both inpatients and outpatients spend the bulk of their time in the hospital undergoing non-patient experiences and suffering through ineffective and impersonal processes.  All patients spend most of their time simply as visitors, as customers, as guests of your facility.  Unfortunately, few hospitals spend much time improving those processes that are common to all patients.

To improve in the area of patient experience management, break the person’s experience into two categories; clinical and non-clinical.  While there is merit in reengineering the processes around a hip transplant, doing so does nothing for everyone who did not have a hip transplant.

Over the next several posts I will suggest what can be done to improve the non-clinical patient experience in a way that can change how people view your hospital.

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