The Democratization of Patient Satisfaction

So, how can you tell how the hospital’s patient experience improvement effort is progressing?  Perhaps this is one way to tell.

A man left his cat with his brother while he went on vacation for a week. When he came back, he called his brother to see when he could pick the cat up. The brother hesitated, and then said, “I’m so sorry, but while you were away, the cat died.”

The man was very upset and replied, “You know, you could have broken the news to me better than that. When I called today, you could have said the cat was on the roof and wouldn’t come down. Then when I called the next day, you could have said that he had fallen off and the vet was working on patching him up. Then when I called the third day, you could have said the cat had passed away.”

The brother thought about it and apologized.

“So how’s Mom?” asked the man.

“She’s on the roof and won’t come down.”

If you ask someone how the patient experience improvement effort is going and she responds by saying, “The project leader is on the roof and won’t come down,” it may be time to get a new leader.

There are more than 120,000 URLs returned when searching “’Why do patients choose’ hospital”.  Based on what I read, the URLs all take the reader to something written by the hospital.

Sixty percent of people say they use the internet to make a healthcare decision.  Sixteen percent of hospitals use social media.  Eighty-one percent of prospective patients stated that a hospital with a strong social media presence is likely to be more cutting edge—you do the math.

Whether your hospital has a strong social media presence may be less relevant because your prospective patients certainly do.  So what does that knowledge do to your organization’s patient experience strategy?   Do you double or triple you social media output?  Does your one or two person internet department try to out-social-media thousands of prospective patients, Twittering away, and constantly posting to Facebook?  Trying to catch up is like trying to walk across a room, and with each successive step cutting the remaining distance in half—you never get to the other side.

The social media “experts” would tell you that is exactly what you need to be doing—more is better.  I think the experts are wrong.

If the experts are wrong, what is the right approach?  The internet is a powerful touchpoint for both patients and prospective patients.  The internet is a large component of patient satisfaction, patient experience, and patient choice.

Rather than going wide and shallow with social media or social-CRM think about a narrower mobile digital strategy that goes deep. For example, think about your hospital’s website.  For starters, what you have is probably just that, just a website. 

There are dozens and dozens of reasons a patient or prospect would go to your site.  A high percentage of them go there because they do not want to try to accomplish something by dialing any of the hospital’s multiple phone numbers.  When they go to the website if it does not entice them to stay on the site, bookmark it, or make it their homepage, the website might as well not exist.

Your website is where purchasing decisions are made and lost by prospective patients, and where satisfaction is raised or lowered for patients.  If a patient cannot accomplish the task they set out to do in an intuitive and user-friendly way, their satisfaction with your entire organization just dropped.

Many more people go to your website than go through the front door of your hospital.  The good news is that you control the user experience of someone on your site.  The bad news is that most organizations are controlling it in a way that gives users a poor experience.  The list of things users cannot do on your website is much longer than the list of things they can do.

Having a tab that reads ‘schedule a visit’ is worth nothing unless the patient was able to schedule a visit, in fact, it probably kills satisfaction.  Having a tab that reads ‘get your health records’ that requires someone to download a PDF, print it, and mail it is equally bad for patient satisfaction.

What should your website be?  At a minimum it should be some combination of a patient portal and a knowledge management system.  It should also be your billing department, your scheduling department, admissions, discharge, housekeeping, food services, support groups, and education services.

Your website should offer every service your hospital offers with the possible exception of a hip replacement—a 24 by 7 virtual hospital minus patient care.  Two-way.  And mobile.  Available on any device at any time.

If you want to interact with your community, patients and non-patients, you need to go to where they are.  And where they are is online.  It is not good if someone with heart disease can watch an angiogram on YouTube or on a competitor’s website and on your website they cannot even find a meaningful cardiology link.  Online patient support groups at the best hospitals provide a real-time referral group—can your patients do that on your site or do they have to go to someone else’s?

Patients are democratizing information. If the information provided by your organization is asymmetrical, it has some catching up to do.

Patient satisfaction—a remarkable experience for every patient every time; in the hospital, on the web, and on the phone.


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