Why Satisfying Patients is Dysfunctional

Technology creates trust among people who have never met.  Individuals, grouped via the web into “smart mobs” are sharing and collaborating in ways hospitals cannot. The individual has transformed from being a passive consumer into one having the collective intelligence of a mob of educated collaborators.

And guess what?  Hospitals are still marketing to and doing business development with individuals.  How well is that working?  These groups of patients and prospective patients are interacting en-mass while the hospital continues investing its resources erecting billboards and telemarketing prospective patients using Salesforce.

Using 1980’s technology hospitals are chumming the universe of potential patients armed with less information than they could find about a person using Google.  Their quarry, on the other hand, is armed by having access to information that represents the collective intelligence of every member of its smart mob.  The smart mob has developed a metasystem of information and opinions about organizations and they will use that metasystem to help them decide whether they will purchase services from your organization.

It is not a fair fight. A battle of wits in which one side is unarmed.

Disrupting the business model and changing the way you do something are not the same.  Motion is not movement.  Lean in not disruptive.  If your organization can be counted among the fans of the lean sigmaists and you want to be really lean all you have to do is turn of the lights and lock the doors; you can’t get much leaner than that.

After a while there will be nothing left to cut or change except to change what you do.  Building capacity for every sub-specialty is not disruptive, it is dysfunctional.  Having more MRIs in your facility than there are in Manitoba is the opposite of lean.  Isn’t it nonsensical to be lean in a few areas and obese in others?  Offering the same services as every other hospital in the area is not disruptive, it is duplicative.  It simply divides the revenue pie for any given procedure into smaller slices.

Hospitals know what they charge, not what their procedures cost.  They can’t pull a P&L per patient, or per procedure.  Healthcare does not know the ROI or NPV of retaining a patient or what it costs to acquire a patient.  If it did, it would invest more resources trying to retain patients, obtain referrals, and win-back former patients. 

Can hospitals make a sound financial argument for having a business development executive instead of a patient retention executive?  It costs ten times more to acquire a new patient than to retain one.

Is having a business development group in a hospital disruptive or is it dysfunctional?  Does it add value?

I ran the question through my head and discovered the following.  In the last decade my immediate family has purchased some form of healthcare at eight different hospitals within twenty-five miles of our home.  Each time we purchased healthcare from a hospital the other seven hospitals never knew we were looking to make a purchase.

To be more specific, once a year I take a cardiac stress test at one of the hospitals.  A cardiologist is present during the test.  Not once in the last ten years has anyone from the hospital told me about their cardiology services or invited me to tour their facility.  But they have a business development group and they advertise their cardiology practice.

Every hospital’s business development group is competing by pitching the same services as every other hospital in their market, and they are pitching those services to the same people as the other hospitals’ business development groups.  Don’t believe me?  Ask your CFO how much revenue the urology billboard generated or whether the business development group covered its costs.

Why are none of the hospitals competing on having the best patient experience?  If a hospital sells customer experience and customer satisfaction it will retain patients, get referrals, and win-back former patients.

Selling customer satisfaction in a market where none of your competitors is selling it is disruptive.  Disruption of an antiquated approach is a good thing.  How can your hospital disrupt its approach to improving patient experience?  Doing the same thing this year that you did last year is not disruptive it is dysfunctional.

If you need a vision statement for patient satisfaction how about using the phrase, A remarkable experience for every patient every time?  It sounds a lot better than ‘a satisfied experience.’  Simply being satisfied isn’t saying much.  If someone tells you that the place they had dinner last night was satisfying it probably doesn’t make you want to rush out and eat there. 

With so many hospitals competing for the same patient perhaps simply satisfying patients is dysfunctional.  The disruptive approach would be to plan to deliver a remarkable experience for every patient every time.

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