Patient Experience: Why Second Opinions may be Killing you

Today started on an off note with the question, “Did you find the bunny?”  The question resulted from the two furry legs dangling from my dog’s mouth.  He would not drop it so thinking I would find it before he did whatever dogs do with bunnies I let him inside knowing he would hide it somewhere in the house.  Apparently I was wrong about being able to find it.  I did however find my putter wedged under the cushions of a love seat along with a remote for a television we had donated to Goodwill because it had no remote.

I then dropped in to see the neighbors, great people who were born on the other side of the pond we call the Atlantic.  They’ve been in the states for ten years and we got to talking about sports, baseball and soccer—soccer, which I learned is a sport in their country.  Tying the two together, I learned that yesterday they attended a soccer match at Yankee Stadium.  The husband explained that he could still see the place on the ‘pitch’—an erudite term of affection for the field on which all English sports are played—where baseball pitchers pitch the ball. 

He also mentioned that the dirt track at the stadium had not been sodded.  After a few minutes of questioning I learned that the dirt track was in fact the infield.  I then suggested that without developing a better understanding of baseball that he was likely to lose his green card.

The conversation then turned to their trip tomorrow to DC.  They were going to see some of the things, like the really tall pointy thing with the scaffolding on it, the building with the round roof, and the lake.  I’ve been to DC a lot, but I could not tell them how to get to any of those sites.

After further questioning, I learned that the tall thing they wanted to visit is actually the Washington Monument, the round-roofed building is the Jefferson Memorial, and the lake is the reflecting pool.  Maybe they have square lakes in England.  I suggested that since we thrashed them in the war—think 1776—they could spend a little more time learning our history.  The husband replied that the bit about England losing the war was a canard, it did not lose the war, it merely retreated. Like General MacArthur, England would be returning to finish its business.

Is the notion of patient satisfaction a similar canard?  When people come to the hospital to ask a question or request information do you tell them to come back tomorrow?  Of course not.

Why then when people make a request of your hospital on the hospital’s website does the website not give an equally quick response?  In fact, why do people have to request a response?  Why can’t they get what they want or do what they want online?  The reason they can’t is because the website causes the person to reach a dead-end without being able to complete the task they set out to complete.  The website is broken. 

Most hospital websites have dozens of dead-ends and missing functions.  I have not seen a hospital website that could not be greatly improved.  I have also not seen my pancreas, but that does not mean it is not there.

Surveys show that about half of the people who are thinking about being treated will use the hospital’s website to decide whether they will seek a second opinion.  A purchasing decision is about to be made.  Stated another way; many will make the decision not to purchase based on the information on your site. 

Another phrase that can be substituted for the term ‘second opinion’ is that prospective patients want an opinion other than yours.  So let’s say the hospital Our Lady of Zero Retention treats a thousand patients a week.  The two extremes if you do the math are that all of those second opinioners picked your hospital.  That is good news.  But what if five thousand people went to your web site for a second opinion and each of them selected another hospital?

And you know what is really scary if you are the hospital’s CEO or a member of the board?  You have no idea who went to your web site to look for a second opinion.  You do not know who picked your hospital, you do not know who picked another hospital, and you do not know what influenced the decision.  That is a tough way to run a business.

Instead of retrofitting your lobby so that it looks like the Four Seasons why not retrofit your hospital’s website?

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