What Is The Theory Of Patient Experience?

I thought I would close out the week sharing a few thoughts about one of my favorite subjects, business meetings.  It is difficult to find a good meeting—one that starts and ends on time, one with an agenda, and one with someone who knows how to run a meeting.

Sooner or later, you have to say something, just to appear interested, and to keep someone from saying, “We haven’t heard from you, what’s your take on the fact that aliens appear to be using the men’s room after hours?”  You must keep your head in the meeting enough to make sure you don’t shout out something inane like “You sunk my battleship.”

Most times you can slide by, by just throwing your support behind someone else’s comment.  “Well said Sally.”  Usually someone who was dealt a pair of twos in the looks category will ask you a trenchant question in a dullard’s voice—a voice that tells you that the person speaking won’t be invited to join Mensa any time soon—why you agree with Sally.  In that case, your best defense is to use words with three or more syllables.  It is for that very reason I keep a jar of big words next to me, and interject them as needed.  If you can spit out aberrant and nonplussed in the same sentence, chances are good they will leave you alone.  The less other understand about what you are saying, the less likely they will be to question you for fear they will appear stupid.

I have many of the same issues with presentations, but at least you have slides to look at.

So, back through the looking glass, back to healthcare.  The field of espionage uses the expression walk back the cat.  It means to trace some thing or some event backwards to see what can be learned.

Pick a number between one and ten and throw in two decimal places just for fun.  Now tell the person next to you what your number means or what their number means.  Kind’a tough to do.

It may not mean anything.  Patients who complete a survey, who rate each question on a scale from one to ten, are going through the same exercise, they are picking a number.  What does their number mean?

What does the average of all of the numbers, or their median mean?  Sorry for the double-entendre.  What does it say for those whose scores are two standard deviations away from the mean?

There are two ways to look at improving patient/customer experience.  One way, the way most organizations go about it is to tailor it, person by person, to the requirements of each individual.  Since you can never get to each person to assess their needs, this approach normally fails.

The right way to create a patient experience strategy is to define the requirements of every individual by defining the needs and expectations of a single global patient and a global prospective patient.

Now try coupling that approach to this definition of patient experience—a remarkable experience for every person every time on every device.

Anything less should be unacceptable.  After all, what part of that definition is an organization willing to weaken?  Each weakening means a loss of patients.  Why bother having a marketing and business development group to bring patients in through one end of the funnel if only to have them quickly exit at the other end because of a less than remarkable experience?

Instead of offering a remarkable experience, should we be willing to settle for a pretty good experience?  Should the remarkable experience be available to everyone, or just to most of the people. Every time, or most of the time?  On the phone, a laptop, and a tablet, or just in the hospital?

The existing theory is that all patient experience can be managed through the looking glass of HCAHPs. In order for that theory to work, the theory must become fact.  If it is not a fact then the only alternative is that the theory is wrong.

If you test the theory and the results do not match the theory, do not blame the results, or change how you interpret them.  Change the theory.

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