What are Patient Experience’s 3 Immutable Laws?

I was observing the heads of my fellow passengers on the Amtrak train.  As the train angled left, the heads of the people in front of me leaned in unison and unanimously to the left.  An angle to the right yielded a similar bobble-head response to the right from everyone. For some reason the action and reaction I witnessed reminded me of a lot of meetings I had attended.

As I took my new MacBook Air out of the box, I looked to see if I had misplaced the operating manual. I found a piece of paper somewhat smaller than a cocktail napkin.  Instead of the words “Instructions” or “Manual” the piece of paper simply stated “Designed by Apple in California.”

Enough said.

User Interface. User Experience. Designed by Apple in California.

My first user experience with anything from Apple was several years ago when I downloaded iTunes. I did not know how to use it then. Because the user interface for iTunes delivers such a poor user experience I still do not know how to use it. In fact, I never even try. After three decades on a PC, switching to Mac feels like learning to use a fork with my other hand.

Two products from the same company. One requires no manual, the other requires a tutor to follow me around. Everything comes down to how easy is the product or service to use. Most people will not invest much time to learn how to use anything.  They will however invest time to find a similar product or service that is easier to use.

One of the services with which we are all familiar is healthcare.

Roemer’s First Immutable Law for Providers: Designing Access is the Most Important Initiative You Can Undertake.

The first time most people—patients and customers—will ever encounter your organization is when they try to access it, when they try and have a meaningful interaction with it. Here are components of Roemer’s 1st Law:

  • If your phone is busy your callers will hang up (feel free to add the words “and call another provider” to each of these)
  • If your callers are placed on hold they will hang up
  • If their call is transferred they will hang up
  • If their needs are not met when they call they will…call another provider
  • If I go to your hospital’s website and the link for the Gift Shop is as prominent as the link for Patients they will go somewhere else
  • If your website has dozens and dozens of links and nothing for them to do they will…go somewhere else

And who are these people who are calling and going to your website?  Roemer’s 2nd Law: Every caller and reader of your website is a potential patient.

Most website visitors are not patients. Thousands of the callers are not patients. These people include the sick, the well, people who are concerned they may be sick, family members, visitors and people at Starbucks.

The reason they are trying to access your hospital is that they want something from it. They may want healthcare. They may want to talk to Aunt Irma in room 312. Roemer’s 2nd Immutable Law For Providers: Patients and Customer do not want to have to work hard to get what they want.

Why is that? It is because nobody designed stickiness into the experience, into the user interface. Stickiness is created when someone interacts with the organization and comes away saying, “That was okay”, “That was really good”, “That was worth my time”, “That was remarkable.”

For almost every hospital, someone going to your hospital’s website is not an exercise in access because there is nothing for them to access; it is mainly a reading exercise. See spot run. Aren’t we a great hospital?  No reason to have gone to it and certainly no reason for anyone to go to it a second time.

Roemer’s 3rd Immutable Law for Providers: If you make me work hard to do business with you I will go somewhere else.

Each caller and website visitor has a potential Life-Time Value to a provider between $180,000-$250,000.  Your hospital may employ a hundred people in marketing and business development. Their mission in life is to try to get people to call the hospital and to go to the website.  Why spend a great deal of money to entice people to check out the organization if people are going to have a poor experience? When people make the effort to visit you, if they have a less than stellar experience they will leave.

Patients leave before becoming patients and they “leak” after receiving services. That seems like a very unsustainable and expensive business model, especially since nobody knows how many or why or when people leak, or which ones do not call back or return to the web site.

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