Patient Experience: Why Doesn’t The Math Work?

In the 16th century Giordano Bruno, a cosmologist, published a theory that the universe was infinite, and that there was no celestial body at its center.  His theory contradicted the teachings of the Catholic church. He was tried for heresy and burned at the stake.

To those who think my published theories that patients are the center of healthcare are heretical, I have hidden all your matches.

Seventy-six percent of health systems in the U.S. spend $100,000 or less annually to improve patient experience (PX).  To put that in terms understood by the readers of People Magazine, the expenditure is less than 1% of what Kim Kardashian spent on her wedding.  It also means that whoever is leading the PX effort at those systems would earn more if their most repeated phrase was, “Do you want fries with your order?”

Nine of every ten healthcare executives say that improving PX is one of their top five priorities.  Is it fair then to ask if their other four top priorities at three out of every four health systems are also funded at less than $100,000?

Forty-five percent of health system executives say they would rate their systems’ efforts to improve PX as fair or poor.

So what do we know if the statistics are to be believed?  One of every two healthcare executives rate their PX low.  Nine of ten say it is a priority.  Three of four spent less on improving it than they spent on the car they drive to work every day.  If we drew this as a Venn diagram none of the circles would intersect.

The good news is that the 45% figure of those who rate their systems’ PX as low is twice as high as the number of Americans who believe the earth is flat—so, that is something on which we can hang our hats.  Forty-five percent is also roughly equal to the number of Americans who believe that the government is covering up the fact that cell phones cause cancer, and who believe extraterrestrials exist.

“Survey says…”

The numbers make no sense; especially when you consider that the average lifetime value of a single patient is around $200,000—unless the lifetime value is zero because the patient’s experience was so bad the patient went somewhere else.

3 thoughts on “Patient Experience: Why Doesn’t The Math Work?

  1. The systems don’t put a focus on PX because most of them started with a focus on billing and later added minor capabilities for e-charting.

    Then along came MU and vendors have since been focusing on MU 1-2-3. It’s fair to say elements of MU focus on PX but only after-the-fact and to an extent across patient populations.

    PX would need a focus on providing real-time decision support in respect of the next intervention to be provided to the patient, sitting in front of a doctor,


  2. Karl, thank you for your thoughtful comments. When I think of PX my little mind stays focused on the basics–non-clinical. My premise is that if a health system cannot even schedule an appointment by phone, all of the good PX efforts are for naught to the caller.


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