I am fascinated by the use of robots in healthcare, from steerable micro-robots that travel through veins to precision robots guiding surgeons to the delivery of meals to patients in the hospital.
What makes them so useful is their accuracy. If they get it right the first time they will get it right the millionth time. They do not get bored, they do not have an attitude, and they do not need a supervisor.
A robot performs its functions using the computer program that tells it what to do. Without the program the robot is nothing more than a door-stop. It is the program that enables the robot to replace or supplement the work that would be done by a person.
I am more fascinated by where robots are not used in hospitals. If robot technology—think computer programs—can be designed and used to do something as complex as treating someone, as saving someone’s life—the ultimate patient experience benefit, why can’t it be used in other areas like improving other aspects of patient experience and acquiring new patients?
Remember, what makes the robot work, what gives it its value is the program. So, how do these programs enhance patient experience? Can computer programs possibly provide a remarkable experience for every person every time on every device? Yes, and here is how.
Two ways people access the hospital; on the internet and by phone.
Two groups of people access the hospital; patients and prospective patients—everyone else.
Two experiences people have when they access the hospital; remarkable and unremarkable.
Specifically I am referring to a customer portal—not the same thing as a patient portal, and a call center. People contact the hospital because they are seeking something, an answer or information, or because they have a complaint they want resolved. Well-designed user experience programs can provide accurate, high quality responses with a high degree of precision:
- Time after time
- Twenty four hours a day
- With zero marginal cost
- Zero rework
- Zero duplication of effort
The call center program is Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Less than twenty percent of hospitals have a CRM product. Of those who have it almost none of them use it to manage customer calls; they use it as a sales tool. The program’s purpose is to enable the people who answer the phones to provide the best answer, the right answer to each call. The CRM is designed to satisfy the person who calls, and to give them enough of what they want so that the person does not have to call a second time. It shortens the length of the call, enabling the hospital employees to take more calls.
People access the hospital because they want to buy healthcare, or are buying it, or because they have to do business with the hospital. The rest of the world calls people who want to do business with an organization customers.
For too long hospitals have relied on Information Technology and Marketing to decide what customer experience means to the organization. The vast majority of hospitals do not have a working definition of patient experience. I have not found a hospital that has formally designed patient experience across the continuum of care. The customer portal is for patients and prospective patients and it should be user-centered and designed by patients. A customer portal is not for getting information about the gift shop or the board of directors.
The purpose of a hospital’s customer portal is to make it easier for people to do business with the hospital and to decide to buy services from the hospital. Anything else is just noise. And the people who know what they need from the hospital are the patients and prospective patients.
What can a customer portal do?
With the right design a customer portal can:
- Perform in-whole or in-part:
- Discharge instructions, monitoring and compliance
- Reduce the cost of back-office personnel
- Increase the accuracy of each person’s touchpoint
- Greatly reduce errors and rework
I call it iHospital or myHospital. Everything nonclinical I need from my hospital on my laptop, my tablet and my phone, all in one place and whenever I want it.
The worst thing for your hospital is for it to be the third or fourth one in your market to build it.
To those who would argue that because not all of our patients want to use computers, and for this reason we should not do what you described, I would ask you at what point does it become worthwhile? Twenty-five percent of your patients, fifty, ninety? Every patient and prospective patient who goes to your hospital’s website is already looking for a technical solution to give them some or all of what they need.