Why your Website is Killing Patient Satisfaction

Hospitals probably have more than one hundred points of contact with each patient.  These points of contact (POCs) begin before the patient is admitted and continue after the patient has been discharged.

The first contact may come by a visit to one of the hospital’s clinics, a 3 A.M. call to a primary care physician, or browsing the hospital’s website.

Yesterday I assessed whether the website of a large hospital group was functional or whether it was just a website window-dressed to look like a customer portal. I assess functionality based on whether I was able to accomplish what I set out to accomplish.

I counted dozens of different phone numbers to call. Along with the list of numbers were links for physician and employee portals, links to the board, a link for donors, wellness, specialties, medical professionals, and dozens more, all on the front page. 

There was even a link, albeit not a portal for patients—a rather important link since the number of visits by patients and prospective patients probably greatly exceeds the combined number of visits by all other visitors to the site.  Unfortunately the patient link was imbedded with six other equally weighted links.

I clicked the patient link and was greeted by two-dozen new links, each displayed as being of equal importance.  There were links for patients to use before coming to the hospital and links for them to use once they were home.  Points of contact with your hospital.  Points of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. 

I clicked some more.  Schedule an appointment.  There are actually two links for scheduling an appointment.  The first link gave me a phone number I could call M-F between 8 and 5:30 P.M.  What number do I call at 6 PM I wondered?  I tried the second link; it took me to the same place. Could I schedule an appointment online or through a mobile device?

What did I learn? There are 168 hours in a week.  Their scheduling service operates for 47.5 hours a week, 28% of the week’s hours. If I dialed that number after hours would I get a recording telling me how important my call was?  If my goal was to schedule an appointment using their website, or to schedule an appointment at any time on any device not only did the hospital not meet my expectation, it did not even offer me an alternative. A dead-end.

If it costs the hospital thirty dollars to schedule an appointment by phone and nothing to schedule an appointment online, why not complete the task correctly, the first time, and for zero cost?

I next looked at what I could do when I was home, more POCs, more chances to be satisfied or dissatisfied. 

Manage my medical records. Using the website I was able to print and mail, two very non-electronic processes, a request to have my records printed and mailed to me.  There was no way to submit my request using their website.  If I did not own a printer or did not have access to a printer my expectation was not met, and was I not offered an alternative.  Some people, a whole lot of people, actually like to complete tasks using a tablet or smart phone. Another dead-end.

Let’s try billing. For Medicaid patients there are two numbers to call for help understanding your bill. That means understanding Medicaid bills is a nontrivial exercise.  That tells me that if I asked the same Medicaid billing question of three different people I might expect to get three different answers.  Why not design the sight so that it provides one right answer to whatever question is asked?  Why not include an online chat feature? Why not create a link to a YouTube video, produced by the hospital that explains Medicaid billing?

Medicare.  No link to prequalifying, not even a phone number for questions.

How to pay your bill.  Perhaps the most difficult and least desirous task a patient must do. There is no link explaining the various components of the bill, and nowhere on the site is a copy of a sample bill explaining or highlighting the various sections of the bill.

There is also no link to understand how to file a dispute or a claim with a payer.  Maybe it is not possible to do this for every payer, but using the 80:20 rule there must be ways to help the majority of patients understand what they are up against rather than having them face down the evil empires on their own.

Patients come to the hospital’s website with expectations.  Patient satisfaction is repeatedly won or lost at your hospital’s website and on the phones.  POCs.  Having a tool that proposes to help patients with their bills that not only does not help them but that adds to their frustration will crush patient satisfaction.

Hospitals want patients to pay their bills and to pay them on time.  Patients who do not understand their bill will not pay more completely, nor will they pay faster.

The next time you look at your hospital’s website ask yourself how different it would look had someone asked a patient how it should function.

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Dinner’s warm, it’s in the dog–Patient Experience Management

dog

Let’s see what we can somehow tie this to patients; I couldn’t resist using the title. The phrase came from my friend’s wife. She’d said it to him after he and I came home late from work one night, he having forgotten his promise to call her if we were to be late. Apparently, she hadn’t forgotten his promise. We walked into the kitchen. “Dinner’s warm—it’s in the dog.” She walked out of the kitchen. I think that’s one of the best lines I’ve ever heard.

He was one of my mentors. We spent a lot of time consulting on out-of-town engagements. I remember one time I took out my phone to call my wife when he grabbed me by the wrists and explained I shouldn’t do that. We had just finished working a 10 or 12 hour day of consulting and had stopped by a bar to grab a steak and beer. I remember there was loud music playing. When I inquired as to why I shouldn’t call he explained.

“When your wife is chasing three children around the house and trying to prepare dinner, she doesn’t want to hear music and laughter and clinking beer glasses. She needs to know that you are having as bad a night as she is. So call her from outside, and make it sound like tonight’s dinner would be something from a vending machine.”

“But it’s raining,” I whimpered. Indeed it was, but seeing the wisdom in his words I headed out and made my call.

So, back to the dinner and the dog, and the steak and the phone call. In reality, they are both the same thing. It all comes down to Expectations. In healthcare it comes down to patient expectations.

Patient Experience Management (PEM) is comprised of two things; patient equity management and patient expectation management. Ask your CFO and your Chief Marketing Officer.  Patients are assets in the same way that the laptops in the nurse’s station and the worn vinyl couch in the waiting room are assets.  They are part of the organization’s valuation.  Unlike durable goods, patients for the most part do not depreciate.  Most organizations know more about how to keep the couch from walking away than they do about preventing the patient from disappearing and never returning.

When was the last time someone in your hospital asked prospective patients about their expectations prior to admitting the patient?  Answer; never.  Chances are that someone in your organization has at some point surveyed or polled discharged patients about their satisfaction.  Those surveys were probably compiled and aggregated, and somehow a rating of high, average, or below average was derived.  What information did that rating yield?  Nothing.

Let’s say you surveyed one thousand patients and that the average patient satisfaction score was ‘below average’.  As compared to what?  Without knowing the patients’ expectations ahead of time it is not possible to calculate how far off below average is from the expectation of average, nor is it possible to know what needs to be done to improve patient satisfaction enough to increase satisfaction.

Viewing patient satisfaction in aggregate tells you very little.  Your expectations, and how your experience compared to those expectations will differ from mine.  The only way to understand how to improve the patient experience across the board is to ask.  Don’t just ask about the treatment they received because in most hospitals the treatment will be stellar.  This is where most hospitals are missing the boat when it comes to improving the patient’s experience.

Let’s say a patient is in the hospital for three days to have a certain procedure done.  The procedure was performed perfectly.  That does not mean the patient will rate their experience as high.  Many other things happen over those seventy-two hours that result in a bad overall experience; the check-in, the food, the noise in the hall, poor service, the bill.

Still not with me?  Suppose you go to Chicago for a three-day convention and you give a one hour speech on day two.  Your speech goes well but your hotel room is noisy, too hot, the cable is broken, they charge you twenty dollars a night for wireless service, and somebody else’s dinner was billed to your room.  If you are like me, when someone asks you about your trip you tell them about the problems with your room, not that your speech went well.  In fact, you probably went to the hotel manager and demanded that the hotel comp your bill.

Expectations not met.  Why?  Basic business processes were a disaster.

Back to the warm dinner in the dog and my phone call. A set of expectations existed in both scenarios. One could argue as to whether the expectations were realistic—and one did argue just that—only to learn that neither of our wives considered the realism of their expectations to be a critical success factor. In that respect, the two women about whom I write are a lot like patients, their expectations are set, and they will either be met or missed.

Each time expectations are missed, the expectation bar is lowered. Soon, the expectation bar is set so low it’s difficult to miss them, but miss them we do. What happens next? Patients leave. They leave and go somewhere they know will also fail to meet their expectations. However, they’d rather give their money to someone who may disappoint them than somebody who continued to disappoint them.

What do you think?

Social Media: The Elephant in the Bored Room

Pardon the idiom, and yes, the misspelling was deliberate.  You may want to grab a sandwich, this is a long read.

For the longest time it has occurred to me that most companies find themselves in a state of what I like to label Permanent Whitewater. As they careen through the rapids, it is anybody’s guess as to whether they will capsize.  And the philistines they have appointed as commissioners would be more appropriately described as Ommissioners, as they have omitted themselves from understanding the world and leading their charges.

Now, what does that have to do with anything?  Thanks for asking.

For those of you who can find California on the map, you will recall the great turnip boycott of the nineteen seventies—I know they boycotted grapes, but I like grapes and do not like turnip, so I choose to have my own protest.  Anyway, this boycott worked, and as a result, the working conditions for migrant workers improved albeit only modestly.

And here is the kicker.  An entire industry was brought to its knees.  That is not the surprising part.  The surprising part is that all of this change was brought about at a time when there were three television channels and when people actually subscribed to newspapers.

From where I sit, social media can be divided into two camps, those who have not slept since the launch of Google+, and the far larger camp of those who have not lost a minute of sleep.  Businesses, for the most part are well entrenched in the latter group.

Part of the reason why businesses are slow to adopt social media can be attributed to their lack of belief that social media matters or can impact their business one way or the other.  And frankly, I think that has a lot to do with why our economy continues to rejoice in its malaise.

So, how to those of us in the first camp get those in the second camp to see the world our way, how do we get them to jump head-first into social media.  The answer is simple.  We need to create our own turnip debacle.

They say it cannot be done, so let us show them.  The one thing that would get companies to embrace social media quickly and unashamedly would be if there was one less company.

Companies, big ones, fat ones, firms that climb on rocks—feel free to finish the tune without my help have the following issues, they think they:

–       control their market

–       own their customers

–       are managing their customers

Companies are wrong about those three assumptions and the use of social media can and will prove this.  I would ask for a company to volunteer, but that would take too long.

If ABC, CBS, and NBC were able through their coverage of the grape boycott, bring about change to an entire industry, imagine with me what impact a global, committed bunch of savvy social media users could do to a single firm.

Here is what I propose.  Let us pick one firm.  The characteristics of this firm should be that it is well known and not well liked—this way if it self-destructs we can argue that we acted on behalf of a greater good.  It should also be a firm associated with technology, a firm that ought to at least be able to spell social media.  If I were asked which firm I would choose I would pick a firm in some aspect of telecommunications, say a firm like Comcast or Verizon—an easy target, a firm facing a customer experience war armed only with their CRM.

Now, the idea of our little social project will be to provide a heads-up to all of the other companies about the start date of the importance of social media.  Let’s tentatively agree on starting on the first of November unless there is a game on television I want to watch.

The goal of the project is to demonstrate that the bourgeois, the working class, with its harmless set of social media tools, can create affect enough of a disruption to an organization to make that organization sit up and take notice, or to make it disappear.

I am sure you remember the YouTube video of the Comcast technician that fell asleep on a customer’s couch.  It went viral, but Comcast did not, and that was simply a single posting by a single customer.  What would happen if the social media mavens decided to use the tools at their disposal and concentrate their efforts at or against a single firm?

Crowdsourcing 101.

I think the end result of such an effort would have a significant impact.  The impact could easily bring about more fundamental change about how firms use social media than was brought about by the grape boycott.

Sometimes something has to be sacrificed on behalf of the greater good.  Although a rising tide lifts all boats, it can ruin your day if your firm is the one chained to the pier.

What are your ideas?

 

Patient Experience Management–what is it?

If you watch too much television your brain will fry. Sometimes I feel like mine is in a crepe pan that was left sitting on the stove too long. Two nights ago I’m watching Nova or some comparable show on PBS. The topic of the show was to outline all the events that took place that helped Einstein discover that the energy of an object is equal to its mass times the speed of light squared, better known as E=mc². It was presented to the audience at a level that might best be described as physics for librarians, which was exactly the level at which I needed to hear it. It’s physics at a level that is suitable for conversation at Starbucks or any blog such as this.

So here’s what I think I understood from the show. It tracked the developments of math and physics in 100 years prior to Einstein’s discovery. The dénouement appeared to occur when Einstein and his fiancée were riding in the bow of the small boat. Apparently, he was leaning over the side of the boat and noticed that the waves generated by the front of the boat moved at the same speed as the boat. He then noted that fact only held true for those persons in the boat, who were in fact, traveling at the same rate of speed. However for those persons watching from the shore, that same wave was not only moving slower than the boat it got further behind over time. Some other things occurred, yada, yada, yada, and there you have it. Clearly, the details are in the yada, yadas.

So here’s what happens when you watch too much television. As I’m running this morning somehow my mind takes pieces from that show and staples them together to yield the following. Let’s go back to the equation E=mc². For purposes of this discussion I’ll redefine the variables, so that:
E = the percentage of Patient Complaints/Inquiries.
m = Patient in-bound calls.
c = number of Patients
If this were true–this is an illustration, not an axiom–the percentage of complaints in the call centers of an healthcare provider is equal to the number of in-bound calls times the square of the number of patients. So as the number of calls increases the number of complaints/questions increases and as the number of patients increases the number of complaints increases exponentially. Of course this is made up, but there appears to be a grain of truth to it. As a number of calls increase the percentage of complaints is likely to increase, and as the number of patients increases there will probably be an even greater increase in the percentage of complaints incurred. I think we can agree that a reasonable goal for a healthcare provider is to decrease the percentage of complaints and perhaps to shift a hefty percentage of inquiries to some form of internet self-service vehicle.

I think sometimes the way providers like to assess the issue of Patient Experience Management  (PEM) is by looking at how much money providers throw at the problem. I think some people think that if one provider has 2 call centers, and another provider has 3 call centers, that the provider with 3 must be more interested in taking care of the their patients, and might even be better at PEM.  I don’t support that belief. I think it can be demonstrated that the provider with the most call centers, and most Patient Service Representatives, and the most toys deployed probably has the most problems with their patients. I don’t think it’s a chicken and egg argument. If expenditures increase year after year, and resources are deployed continuously to solve the same types of problems, I think it’s a sign that the provider and its patients are growing more and more dysfunctional.

How does this tie to Einstein and his boat? Perhaps the Einsteins are those who work with the provider; those who are moving at the same speed, those in lockstep. From their vantage point, the waves and the boat, like the provider and its patients, are all moving forward at the same speed. Perhaps only the people standing along the shore are able to see what is actually occurring; the waves distance themselves from the boat in much the same way that the patients distance themselves from the provider.

PEM is such an easy way to see large improvements accrue to the provider, especially using social media.

Social CRM meets Customer Equity Management

During my run today I passed a home whose appearance made it look like an antipodean group of internationally renowned architects had competed to design the world’s ugliest building.  I forced my mind to focus on something else, like why the US has yet to invade Canada.

I enjoy writing as do many of us.  However, I have come to believe that most of us have the ability to write a sentence in some semblance of English.  What seems to separate the good writers from the less gifted is their ability to blend disguise the joins between the sentences in such a way that they do not show.  Worse yet, there are those writers whose attempt to communicate is a pox in the same unrestrained style of prose put into play by a Chinese man selling used Volkswagen Beetles along the back streets of Puerto Rico.

Judging the literary skills of some, it would appear they are wrestling with the parts of speech and fighting a losing match.  These are the same individuals who were they to write about a famous religious figure would name the Flying Nun, unaware of the non sequitur.

Oh well, enough of that, back to the business of changing business.  There may be a few dozen firms that ‘get it’…Amazon, Apple, Ebay.  The rest of them, yours included, are still busy trying to change their customers and prospective buyers to make them buy things according to their notion of how the selling and buying process works.  These are the same firms who think CRM, customer relationship management, is a valuable management tool.

CRM is everything it never was.

When a customer or prospect walks into your facility, or sees your organization online, everything you thought you knew about your business and about them is over.  The thing most firms miss is understanding that the market power has shifted from the business to the customer.

See if you can answer this question.  What is an iPhone, or a Kindle Fire?

They are shopping carts.  The moment a customer picks up the device they begin thinking about what they are going to put into that shopping cart.

The same process works whether a customer is walking into an auto dealer, a patient is walking into a hospital, or a subscriber turns on their television.  They are ready to make a buying decision and most firms are trying to manage them—good luck.

These people—customers—have done their homework, their due diligence on your firm and you offerings.  My sense of that if you were to segment customers by those who did their homework and those who did not, those who do are going to be the customers who spend the most.

The smart firms have stopped trying to manage their customers.  The very smart firms are using the social web to facilitate their customers shopping experience.

Customer Equity Management.  What is one customer or patient or subscriber worth?

 

Spilt Tea: Why companies choose to fail

At one time the single word Lubyanka was enough to bring normal Russians to their knees in terror.  Lubyanka is known best for being the headquarters of the Soviet secret police.  The basement of Lubyanka housed a prison which contained one hundred and eleven cells, cells used to hold and interrogate political prisoners during Russia’s purge.

Tea was provided to the prisoners twice each day.  A prisoner within each prison cell would place a teapot outside the cell. A prisoner, carrying a pail filled with tea, would pour tea from the pail into the teapot.

Tea spilled on to the floor.  The prisoner would clean the spilt tea with a rag.

Lubyanka’s prison operated for twenty-seven years.  Tea was served to the one hundred and eleven cells and spilled in front of each cell twice a day, seven hundred and thirty times a year.

Two million, one hundred eighty eight thousand spills.  The same number of cleanups.

Someone somewhere made the decision that it was easier or cheaper to spill and sop the water 2,188,000 times than it was to make pails with spouts on them.

What are the pails in your company?  What dumb, wasteful, redundant activities and processes have been left unchanged?

The most obvious one for most companies is call centers.

It is easier to take 2,188,000 calls each year about your bills than it is to fix the bills.  It is easier to take 2,188,000 calls each year about the bills than it is to get rid of the bills.  The same argument applies to a number of other processes.

And do you know where the fallacy in the argument is?  The fallacy comes from the erroneous belief that by having a call center, by answering calls you are actually providing your customers a service.

You are not.  All you are doing is wiping up spilt tea.

Who Killed CRM?

I once said to my client in Madrid “Well, she’s no rocket scientist,” commenting on the performance of one of his team members.  Turns out I was wrong—she had a PhD in astrophysics.

Anyway.  Have you noticed that too many people view fixing business problems as rocket surgery?  These are the same people who confuse motion with movement.  These are the same people who come to work each day and work on what was happening yesterday.  Do you ever wonder who is working on what needs to be happening tomorrow?

If your own employees view going to work and company functions with less enthusiasm than they would have going to an all day Celine Dion concert in the dead of winter, is it any wonder that your customers are running away in droves?

Businesses begin to die the day they open their front door—ask GM.  What then is the secret sauce to remaining viable?

As different as businesses are from one another, the common factor among all businesses is one thing—customers.  Hospitals, banks, manufacturers, software companies all have the same mission statement, one they do not publish—We do stuff for money.  Guess who has the money—customers.  Businesses only remain in business by being able to one thing; getting those with the money to give their money to them.

Without OPM—Other People’s Money—there is no business.  We do stuff for money.  If that is true, should not every activity, every plan, every process, and every investment somehow contribute, somehow add value to the transaction of transferring OPM from them to you?  Are activities that do not add value to that transaction wasteful, redundant, or unnecessary?

Every business decision, every strategy, every acquisition, every hire should be evaluated in terms of whether or not they increase the firm’s ability to increase the amount OPM captured.

If this idea sounds too simple, that is because it is.  There is nothing complex about focusing on the customer.  But you would never know that from scanning the internet job boards.  Companies are looking to hire for a cornucopia of customer related positions; CRM, CEM, customer for life, customer first.

What do these companies need?  Business intelligence, a data warehouse, a chief marketing officer?  Hardly.  Marketing keeps trying to figure out ‘how do we get customers to pay attention to us?’  What they should be asking is “what do we have to do to pay attention to them?’

Most company executives would not know a customer if they sat next to one on the bus.  They may know about the customer; income, age, social stratification, number of children, but they do not know why they are a customer or why they were a customer.

Customers leave all of the time.  They leave to find a company that either treats them better, or one with which they do not have to interact.  Welcome to the land of customer initiated virtual RFPs.  Instead of companies deciding to whom they sell the stuff or their services, customers decide from whom they are going to buy.

CRM is dead and companies killed it.  Customers know when someone is trying to manage them and they do not like it.  Now customers are managing the sellers and they do not need multimillion dollar systems to do it.

If you are interested, this link goes to a presentation I have given on CRM:Dead or Dying?  Feel free to use it or to leave a copy on the desk of your CEO.

http://www.slideshare.net/paulroemer/crm-dead-or-dying