Patient Experience: Are You Just Boiling Frogs?

On one of my first trips to England I dined—in this case ‘dined’ is a euphemism for ‘ate’—in a large, white, IBM cafeteria on the outskirts of London.  The buffet offered cauliflower, fish, rice, potatoes, pearled onions, bread, turkey—the white meat, and milk.  Various shades of white food.  It was like eating in a black and white film.

No wonder the Commonwealth did not hold together.

The following night I actually did dine.  The restaurant in the English city of Westminster, The Chesil Rectory, was built at a time when people must have been shorter as I had to duck to enter the old building.  The restaurant’s website estimates the building was constructed between 1425-1450.

This was not the IBM cafeteria.  My first clue; even the beer was dark.  The sides included carrots, tomatoes, peas, watercress, and aubergine—eggplant.

At some point instead of trying year after year to marginally improve someone’s experience (various shades of white food), an organization should simply improve it.  While that may sound like a play on words it is not.  Case in point: Microsoft keeps trying to improve customer experience—Windows 2-6, VISTA, Windows 7, and Windows 8 (shades of white food).  Microsoft followed a technology cycle where every year or two people upgraded their PCs.

Apple and Google create and sell customer experience.  Customers line up to buy the new experience.  If you had to guess which of the three firms never actually met with and watched customers use products, and designed the experience around that information, which firm would you pick?

The efforts to improve patient experience in hospitals and customer experience in payers have included dozens of tweaks, expensive tweaks, over years.  From the perspective of patients and customers it seems like a lot of hat and no cowboy.  People do not notice the affect of many slight changes over time.  To your customers, your patients, it is difficult for them to differentiate their experience in August from the one they had two years ago.  Nothing remarkable and nothing memorable.

Current efforts by many organizations remind me of placing a frog in a pot of water and gradually raising the temperature.  The frog does not recognize that the temperature is changing.  From the frog’s perspective all he knows is that he’s wet.

Several organizations have surveyed providers asking them to rank the importance of patient experience and asking them what they are doing to improve it.

Of note: those same several organizations did not survey patients or prospective patients as to what providers could do to improve the experience.  None of the initiatives mentioned by providers in the surveys mentions them asking patients or prospective patients as to what providers could do to improve the experience.

If the IRS announced that their top priority in the next three to five years was an internal effort to improve customer experience, number one, would anyone believe them, and number two, would anyone expect significant change?  If healthcare payers announced that their top priority in the next three to five years was an internal effort to improve customer experience, number one, would anyone believe them, and number two, would anyone expect significant change?

If you are not hearing a patient talk about their experience at your hospital by saying “Wow, that was different” you are just boiling frogs.  Innovate or go home.  If you don’t your patients will.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s