Patient Experience: How Easy Are You To Do Business With?

Every patient should expect a remarkable experience every time, for every interaction at any time on any device. 

That remarkable experience, in addition to their care, will contribute to their decision to return to that hospital and whether they will refer others. 

A large part of a patient’s experience comes down to this; How easy are you to do business with?

Most patients would rather be anywhere but the hospital.  They expect to be in pain, inconvenienced, frightened and humbled.  The nearest experience for comparison most of them have regarding sleeping overnight and having their meals delivered probably comes from having spent hundreds of nights in hotels. That plays into their expectations, but hospitals do not ask about their expectations ahead of time.  Instead hospitals allow CMS to define the parameters for good and bad experiences, and they package it in a survey of a few dozen questions.

What do hospitals miss if all they rely on are surveys and purchasing their own data.

  1. Surveys only focus on patients.  They provide zero data on prospective patients, ignoring all of the potential patients whose opinion of the hospital is defined by a visit to the hospital’s website, calling the call center, and social media posts by prior patients.  The number of people each day who “visit” the hospital online and over the phone greatly exceeds the number treated each day.  What was the experience of the visitors? Did they select the hospital?  Why not? How many potential patients were lost because they had a bad experience online or on the phone? If patient experience warrants spending millions on business development, sales and marketing, and the hospital’s lobby, is spending an equal amount on their web presence and call center not of equal or greater value?
  2. Hospitals do not know the experiential expectation of a single patient.
  3. Patient expectations of their experience begin to be set the moment they first feel a lump, or when their child has a high fever in the middle of the night.  For some their experience continues well beyond when they have completed the survey and left the hospital.  Whether those interactions provide a remarkable experience will help determine where that person will go the next time they decide where to be treated.
  4. Hospitals should add to their efforts to improve patient experience by also looking at touchpoints and processes that affect the experience of every patient.  They could start with their website and call center.  They should look at those business processes that map almost one-to-one with the hospitality industry.  To name a few, those processes include scheduling, admissions, billing, claims, food service, and housekeeping.

I spoke with executives at three different hospitals last week and heard the following.

A hospital CEO said, “The greatest improvement I could make to improve patient experience is to add parking and improve the food.”  An executive in charge of quality said, “Seventy percent of our patients are Hispanic.”  When I asked about their plan to make their website available in Spanish she told me they had no plan.  An executive in charge of customer satisfaction at a third hospital said they were having problems with their call centers.  Those call centers are open between the hours of eight and five-thirty.  Even cable television companies provide better hours.

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