Patient Experience: Are you worse than US AIR?

Sometimes the job of being a consultant is eerily similar to the job of being an intelligence analysts.  Being an intelligence analyst assume that there is, that is, intelligence worthy of analysis.

We like to put a bomb in the water to see where the dead fish land.  Unfortunately, sometimes the clients suspect they are one of the fish.

When things go awry in a meeting, especially if I may have caused the angst, I am the one most likely to try to change the morbidity of the meeting by saying, “What if we agree to bring down the tension in the room?  I don’t know about you, but I have a heart condition.  I have fatty deposits in my arteries and I have a stent.”  That usually buys me a second or two and may make them question locking me in an Iron Maiden for a fortnight. 

One of my resolutions this year is to affect a British accent, something from Oxford or Cambridge, somewhat like the person doing the color commentary during a golf tournament.  I do not know if that will allow me to charge more per hour, but at a minimum it may cause people to think twice before they question my grammar.

Some days, deciding which organization gave you the worst experience is difficult.  Today I had two solid candidates by 10 AM—US Air and American Express.  I was booking a flight and was going to pay for it using a new American Express card.  I made the reservation, and authorized the card online.  When I went to pay US Air logged me out and required I re-enter all of the information. I hit ‘pay’ and was told my card was not authorized even though AmEx online stated it was.

I called AmEx, used the automated attendant, and again authorized my card.  Back to US Air, and surprise, I was logged out. Re-entered my flight information–the price I had been quoted was not longer avasilable, re-entered my credit card information, hit ‘pay’ and my card was not authorized.  It reminded me of the directions on a shampoo bottle—although why we need directions on how to use shampoo is beyond me—wash hair, rinse, repeat.

An hour and ten minutes later I actually had made my reservation and paid for the tickets.

So, how are those kind of experiences working for your patients?  When was the last time you called your hospital to ask to schedule an appointment or lab, or wanted to speak with someone about your bill?  How long was your wait?  Did you get the right answer without being transferred or without being given another number to call or without getting a recording telling you to call back during business hours?

Does it work any better if you try to accomplish anything online?  On your laptop, or even worse on a tablet?  Of course it did not.

At best, most hospital websites are online libraries.  They were never designed to be functional, they were designed to be read.  You can read about almost anything the hospital has ever thought you might need to read.  But try to schedule an appointment, pre-admit yourself, order your health records, or look up your discharge information and you are flat out of luck.

Some people actually believe that using EPIC’s or Cerner’s patient portals will make it easy for people to do business with your hospital.  Those people are in for a nasty surprise.

Three years from now the best hospitals will be those whose functionality can be carried around on someone’s iPad.  The rest of them will be like trying to book a flight with US AIR.

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