Patient Access–WHY: Is Everyone Asking The Wrong Question?

The Lake Wobegone Effect is the natural human tendency to over-estimate one’s abilities; all of the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all of the children are above average.  In business it used to be referred to as the Peter Principle, being promoted to one’s level of ineptitude, meat in a seat.

The problem begins with what I interpret to be a corollary of the Peter Salinger Syndrome—everything you see on the internet is true.  My management 101 corollary of Pete’s syndrome is—everything we are doing must be right, or we would not be doing it. Innovation meetings serve as in-house think tanks.  Perhaps what we need are a few less think-tanks and a few more do-tanks.

Woodrow Wilson borrowed brains when he needed help.  That is why God created consultants.  There are times when businesses can improve themselves by borrowing brains and recruiting a chief-table-pounder—an ardent champion of a different way to do things.

When it comes to the concept of improving patient access and patient experience the time has come to pound tables.  Having an HCAHPS committee and a big room with a lot of phones in it to schedule appointments is not enough.

In the spate of problems a health system needs to address, fixing the patient access experience should be at the top of everyone’s list.  Step one is admitting the problem exists—my name is Fred, and we have a patient access problem.  This is a problem with enough magnitude that it warrants being a CEO’s attention.

Simon Sinek created the concept of the Golden Circle.  People—think consumers and patients—don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  In healthcare the WHAT is the service, the HOW is the value proposition, and the WHY is the cause.

golden circle

There are two ways of looking at the patient access experience problem, the ways health systems look at it and the way your chief-table-pounder—me—looks at it.  Health systems approach patient access by first addressing WHAT and HOW.  The way health systems look at patient access makes the WHY nothing more than a byproduct of WHAT and HOW.  It makes WHY almost useless.

colden circle 2

What: We need to respond to patient requests

How:  We created a scheduling center—the big room with phones

Why:  Because patients need appointments

Problem solved. What’s next on our agenda?

What if healthcare started by asking WHY do we need to improve patient access:

colden circle 2

Why:   We need to create a delightful experience for patients and consumers to retain and attract them

How:   People do business with companies by phone and online

What:  We created a call center and an interactive customer portal

Everyone can explain WHAT. May people can explain HOW. To improve patient access healthcare must redefine WHY.  The patient is the object of the access service they receive.  They are the subject of the access experience they receive.

Health systems should start by defining WHY improving access is important, and by creating an enterprise-wide patient access experience strategy—remarkable access for every person every time, at any time, and on any device.

rhino services

One thought on “Patient Access–WHY: Is Everyone Asking The Wrong Question?

  1. “Why” always is a good starting position, given scarce resources in the context of a desire to build, maintain and enhance infrastructure.

    So, I understand clearly that “delightful experience” needs to be high up on the list of decision criteria for hospital resource allocation (i.e. anything less, the patients will go elsewhere).

    The precursor to being able to deliver a delightful experience is to be a center of excellence. If you cannot process patients such that they receive accurate diagnoses, good treatment, stay no longer than necessary, but do not relapse immediately thereafter, no point.

    A center of excellence + phone/internet access takes the healthcare facility close to delighted customers,

    The only hurdle is traditional EMRs contain data that is slanted toward use by healthcare professionals.

    Any patient portal has to be able to respond to “let me see my chart” by having an engine extract data from the EMR to a syntactically-correct true narrative, augmented by charts/graphs etc as appropriate.

    The objective should not be to “dumb down” the chart content but simply to make it more readable to a different audience.


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