Patient Experience Management: I hate to be a pest…

…but I inadvertently just proved my own point, albeit to myself. I have been fooling around–with my old MP3 player, and I couldn’t get it to turn off or on–that’s why my wife hides the power tools.

I ducked into a nearby phone booth and put on my SSCC (self-service customer care shirt)–do you realize most kids under the age of ten have never seen a phone booth? Sorry.

Off to Google. I never even considered going to the manufacturer’s web site. I typed, “Remove battery from Creative Vision:M.” Up pop several YouTube videos, each done by one of Creative’s customers, showing step-by-step with voice instructions explaining how to correctly remove the battery. I place a lot more faith in what a customer tells me than I do in what they firm tells me.  Your customers (patients and doctors) do the same thing.

The user manual that came with the device never mentions how to remove the battery.

And this is my point. Your patients know what your other patients need, and in what form it will be most useful. And, they are providing it. Now, how difficult would it be for a hospital, say your hospital, to start thinking about your patients as though you were a patient? Not very.

Of the few hospitals which have a Patient Experience Management (PEM) strategy or social media (SM) strategy, not too many are effective.  I’ve only seen one which uses those to increase revenues.  Most hospitals use PEM and SM to manage spin, to try to counteract what their patients are saying about them.  One can only imagine the impact a hospital could have by starting the spin, starting conversations about itself using these tools.

You know what?  You don’t have to imagine it.  It is probably the easiest project you will undertake.

Here’s a link to a PowerPoint deck on the subject of PEM.

Patient Experience Management (PEM): Left Brainers, Right Brainers, and No Brainers

Sometimes I feel a little like the ambassador from the planet Common Sense, and unfortunately very few of us speak the same language. Let’s see if we can segment the Patient Experience Management (PEM) population into left brainers, and right brainers. I am wrestling with an issue that I believe is a no-brainer.

One point, upon which both sides seem to agree, is that without the patients, PEM would be superfluous. The breakdown is that for a hospital to flourish in the long term, hospitals should re-engineer their business processes to facilitate the dissolution or substantive reduction of traditional customer service.  This extends beyond the cordial relationship of a nurse or a doctor and their patients in hospital beds.

In many, if not most instances, the very existence of traditional customer service provides a vehicle which acts as an enabler for failure. It gives hospitals permission to be mediocre in dealing with their interactions with their patients and physicians. In effect, traditional customer service is a tacit admission to the employees and the patients, “We don’t always get it right. We don’t always do our best.

Before deciding not to read further, ask yourself a few questions. The purpose of the questions is to try and articulate a quantifiable business goal for customer service, PEM.

1. Does customer service have planned revenue targets
2. Does it have its own P&L?
3. Does it have a measurable ROI?
4. What is the loaded cost for each patient and doctor interaction?
5. Could the costs of those interactions be eliminated by fixing something in operations?

If the answers to 1-3 are no, the answer to 4 is unknown, and the answer to 5 is yes, your hospital inadvertently made the decision to ignore revenues and to incur expenses that provide no value to your organization. I believe this premise can be proved easily.

The careers of many people are directly tied to the need to have customer service and call centers. Big is good. Bigger is better. Software, hardware, telecommunications, networks—more is better. Calls are the lifeblood of every call center. Without those calls, the call center dies. Calls are good, more calls are better.

When was the last time you were in a meeting when someone said something like, “In the last three years our patient call volume has continued to increase,” or, “Calls have gone up by forty percent.” That part may sound familiar. The phrase nobody has heard is, “We can’t continue to add that many calls.” Tenure and capital. That part of the business is managed with the expectation that the number of calls will continue to grow. And guess what? It does. How prophetic is that? Or is it pathetic? You decide.

Given that, how does the typical healthcare provider manage their customer service investment? Play with the numbers. In many organizations, if customer service management can show that patient satisfaction is holding steady, no matter how bad it is, and they can use the numbers to show that some indicator has moved in a favorable direction, other areas of the business are led to believe that customer service is performing well.

Memo to those executives who are authorizing customer service expenditures—I want to make sure there is no mistaking how I view the issue. If that is what you are hearing from your customer service managers, they either don’t understand their responsibility, or they understand it and they don’t want you to understand it.

To be generous, if patient satisfaction with regard to customer service is below ninety-five percent, your customer service is in serious need of a re-think. Just because patient satisfaction is not tanking faster does not mean customer service is functional.

Most executives know how to get numbers to paint whatever picture they need to paint. Beware the sleight of hand. Any time the customer service manager comes to you and says he is improving operations by reducing the average amount of time someone spends on the phone talking to a patient (average handle time), don’t believe anything else he tells you. Allow me to translate. When the customer service budget is tight (too many interactions and too few people with which to interact) the way to make it fit the budget is to make your people end the call quicker. Shorter calls mean more calls per hour. Note—speed buys you nothing, except for more repeat calls, less resolution, less patient satisfaction. It’s a measure of speed—IT IS NOT A MEASURE OF ACCOMPLISHMNET.

I’d be willing to bet that somewhere between twenty-five and fifty percent of calls from your patients and physicians can be addressed better via a combination of social media and the Internet.

Patient Relationship Mangement–who’s kidding who

(AP) New York. CNN reported that Patient Relationship Management (PRM) and Patient Experience Management (PEM) died. Services will be held next Monday at Dunkin Donuts. Patients are asked not to attend, but instead to forward their complaints to Rosie O’Donnell.

PRM is what hospitals tend to use; it measures against their standards.  It is a push model.  PEM is what patients tend to use; it is a pull model.

A fellow, David Phillips, wrote, “Relationships should be considered part of the intrinsic value of the corporation”—he is an auditor. A group of PhDs who concluded that the six components for measuring relationships include; mutuality, trust, commitment, satisfaction, exchange relationship, and communal relationship. I feel better just knowing that.

Patient Relationship Management—PRM. I hate being the one to break the news but, PRM is dead. I didn’t kill it. It’s dead because it never existed.  Relationship Management.  Who is actually measuring a relationship?  What unit of measure do you use to measure a relationship? Inches, foot-pounds, torque?  PRM carcasses are strewn about. You can’t manage what you can’t or don’t measure.

“What are you talking about?” She hollered. “We measure. We measure everything. If it’s got an acronym, we’ve got a measure for it. KPIs. CSFs. ACD. IVR. ATT. AHT. Hold time. Abandonments. Churn.”

Just because something is being measured, it doesn’t mean that the measure has anything to do with the desired outcome. Nobody has a single quantifiable metric that precisely points to the health of an individual patient relationship. Seems silly? No sillier than really believing you have an ability to manage something as ephemeral and esoteric as relationships.

Just how good are those relationships everyone thinks they’ve been managing? Five percent higher than last month?  Down three percent over plan?  Permit me a brief awkward segue. Joseph Stalin said, “One death is a tragedy, one million deaths are a statistic.” The point is that scale matters—a great deal.  One death versus a million.  One patient interaction versus millions.  It makes a difference. The things we do that impact patient experiences impact patients individually, one patient at a time.

PRM metrics in use at hospitals apply to patients—plural.  PRM metrics are benchmarks and averages—patients aren’t.  Hospitals measure against the masses, against the pool of patients.  The patient mass does not churn, does not leave your hospital, does not ask to speak to a supervisor.  Consider a patient, not a single metric.  Not a single measure in your hospital accurately depicts the success or failure of that patient’s experience.

So, what’s a hospital to do? Stop trying to manage your hospital’s performance by managing relationships.  Here’s what you can do, manage your hospital using things you can measure. Once you can measure it you can manage it.  A hospital can start by defining metrics for the following;

Patient Referral Management—how many patients came via referral?

Patient Resolution Management—how many patient problems were fixed?

Patient Recovery Management—how many patients did you win back?

Patient Retention Management—how many patients did you prevent from going elsewhere?

If you are the CIO, show the VP of Operations your ideas for tracking the answers to these questions. This is step one to having a real PEM program.  If you are really serious about having a patient experience management program, change the word “experience” to the word “equity.”  Patient Equity Management—all of a sudden you have something worth talking about.


Family Experience Management–not just the Patient

If you are at all like me, when you need information on a topic, you go to Google.  Moreover, if the information you seek does not appear on Google, my mindset tells me the information does not exist.  Google is perceived as the repository of all things written since a caveperson—although I do not think cavepersons are thought of as being politically correct—painted the design of the first iPad on the wall of the cave with the foreskin of a newt.  If a particular idea or bit of information is not on Google, I tend to think the bit for which I am looking does not exist.

Because of the breadth and width of all the collected data, it is difficult to come up with a data request for which there is no response.  Experience shows even if you search on a meaningless phrase, Google will return to you several links that match.

Until yesterday, at least for the search I entered—Family Experience Management (FEM).  Of all the billions of bits of information, my search yielded one hit.  Being curious, I clicked on the link, and the result did not even include the phrase.

So, we are entering unchartered territory, defining a new concept.  This is a little like getting to name a new planet.

Patient Experience Management (PEM) is what got me thinking about the FEM concept, or the lack of the concept.  As we discussed per the McKinsey study, PEM is at the top of the mind of most hospital CEOs and COOs for the next several years.  The study also reported that although PEM is of such high priority, few hospitals are doing anything about PEM because hospital executives do not know who within their organization “owns” the patient.

Ignoring for the moment that this says something about one’s ability to lead, the value of a PEM initiative is it leads to patient retention, lower costs, and is good for business.  PEM, as I look at it, is not limited to streamlining the ER, or allowing patients to park closer to the hospital.  Good PEM enhances and improves every interaction the patient has with the hospital.  The more interactions your PEM program touches, the more benefits to the hospital; at least that is the theory.

But, what if there is more to it?  Is there a way to bring about more benefit by redefining and subsequently implementing a PEM program?  I think there is.

Unlike other services people purchase, healthcare, purchased via a hospital, is purchased and “used” collaboratively; patients, family, and friends are all involved in many aspects of the service.  People other than just the patient help with scheduling appointments, transportation, visiting, care, picking up medications, talking with doctors and nurses, billing, and interfacing with payers. It is kind of like MCI’s Friends and Family program, only the bill is much larger.

So, when hospitals begin to think through how to ‘manage’ the patient experience, managing the patient is but one of the stakeholders they ought to address.  The other interesting takeaway from looking at FEM instead of simply PEM are the social CRM and social networking implications.  As the number of stakeholders increases, so does the size of the social network that is willing to make their experience with the hospital the talk of the town.


Patient Expectation Management

“Dinner is warm, it’s in the 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.

PEM can be a number of things; Patient experience management, Patient equity management, and Patient expectation management. In this instance, we are discussing the latter. 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, their expectationbar 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.


Crowdsourcing versus Social-CRM

I wrote this as a comment to a DachisGroup posting on the topic.

I think the one application of crowdsourcing that is most overlooked is one which hardly fits the definition. This type is not premeditated. It is the type where the “machine” is a means to an end, and it does not originate at the organization. In fact, the organization is the target of this type of crowdsourcing—Social-CRM.

Most definitions of crowdsourcing include the notion of a call going out to a group of individuals who are then gathered via the call to solve a complex problem, acting like a shared problem solving methodology, much like the theory of Law of Large Numbers.

The crowd is likely to have an upper limit in terms of the number of members. By default, traditional crowdsourcing is fashioned to work from the top down; it is outbound, a push model.

Social-CRM (S-CRM) tends to work from the bottom up. There are no boundaries to the number of members; in fact, there can be thousands of members. Also atypical is the fact with S-CRM no single event or call to action drives the formation of the crowd. The crowd can have as many events as it has members.

The unifying force around S-CRM is each member’s perspective of a given firm or organization. Members are often knitted together by having felt wronged or put-off by an action, product, or service provided or not provided by said organization. Most organizations do not listen to, nor do they have a means by which they can communicate with the S-CRM crowdsource. This in turn causes the membership to grow, and to become even more steadfast in the individual missions of their members.

In traditional crowdsourcing, once the problem solving ends, the crowd no longer has a reason to exist, and it disbands. With S-CRM crowdsourcing, since the problem never seems to go away, neither does the crowd.

Every firm has one or more S-CRM groups biting at its ankles, hurting its image, hurting the brand, causing customers to flee, and disrupting the business model. Even so, most organizations ignore the S-CRM crowd just like someone ignores their crazy Uncle Pete who disrupts every family gathering.


Patient Experience Management-there are some easy answers

There’s a reason penguins don’t play the viola—maybe that’s why they don’t have a home page. I used to try to approach things with an open mind, but people kept trying to put things like that in it. Did you ever notice that it’s difficult to encourage people to think outside the box especially if you haven’t seen evidence that the people inside the box are thinking? I’m sure there are those who think these ideas are mere snake oil, but who among you has ever seen a rusty snake?

There is often an inverse relation between the relevance of a document and its brevity. Roemer’s Law 17: the value of a patient user manual used in your call centers is approximately equal to the square root of the number of chapters. (That bit of insight is the equivalent of 4.6 raiments, where one raiment has been universally established as the amount of consulting insight needed to awe a frog for one hour.)

How many different patient user manuals are there in your patient call center? How many pages do those manuals occupy? I think user manuals are so long because call center managers believe busy people are effective people. People who aren’t busy all the time might start to think, and what good has ever come from that?

The United States Constitution is about 9,000 words—that’s about thirty pages. What is it about the interactions between patients and call center reps that requires more verbiage than the amount needed to keep 350,000,000 people living in prosperity and at peace with one another for more than 220 years?

For some people, work takes place in the fast lane. For me, it often takes place in oncoming traffic. To conclude, let’s agree to quit viewing things from the dark side of the sun. Sometimes instead of complaining about the darkness, it’s better to ignite a flame. The next time you are at your desk, open the user manuals, take out all the pages, and replace them with this one rule:


I guarantee that will improve performance. Some executives argue that the chances of something so patently absurd actually being true are a million to one. But consultants have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten. It’s also fair to state that all mushrooms are edible, however it’s equally fair to state that some mushrooms aren’t edible more than once.

To those who want to prove me wrong, go ahead. Destroy the fabric of the universe, then call me.


Patient Relationship Management-Master of the Jedi Order

They don’t call me Yoda for nothing. This little rant is for those acolytes drinking the Kool Aid of disbelief, the recipe that says one day, if we stay the course, this will all get better.  These are those who believe the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train.
For the next few minutes try and disassociate yourself from your responsibilities at work and become a patient.  Recall a time when you’ve been a dissatisfied patient and afterward felt the need to interact with your provider. If you’re totally honest, the forthcoming interaction should quicken your pulse. Cold beads of sweat appear on your forehead, your palms feel a little clammy, and you feel an unexplained need to microwave your neighbor’s cat.

The transition is faster than Clark Kent in a phone booth. A mild mannered and pedestrian acolyte transformed into a right-winged, Myers-Briggs INTJ A-Type with a passion for metaphorically devouring the unfortunate person awaiting your phone call.

As you think about managing the equity of your patients think about it from the perspective of the patient, goodness knows they do. That relationship is black and white—there are no shades of gray. It’s good versus evil, Yoda versus Darth Vader.

Patients Experience Management versus Patient Experience Management.  See that little ‘s’ tacked on to the word patient?  One letter makes a world of difference.  Patients do experience the decisions of your hospital’s management, and oftentimes that experience is unpleasant.  That experience can involve a broad range of issues–billing, insurance, dispute management, scheduling, prescriptions.

I think with most patient interactions the patients believe that the person on the other end of the line (think hospital customer service person) is incented to make them go away as quickly as possible and at the lowest possible expense to the provider.

For most patients, patient loyalty is a thing of the past.

With whom do you do business? Why? For any product that is even close to being a commodity, I deal with the firm who I find to be the least offensive, the one that will irritate me the least. That’s why I buy cars on eBay so I never again have to hear the phrase, “What’s it going to take to get you into that car?” If you find yourself doing that, why is it such a stretch to believe so many patients feel the same way? That said, could it be rather naïve to believe your hospital’s current approach to patient relationship management will make any difference?

Patients Experience Management-why not think like one?

I met last week with a number of 1st Year MBA students who have a consulting club to help them figure out if they are suited for this noblest of all professions–supposedly the second oldest profession. “How can you tell if you’ll be any good at it?” They asked.

As far as I can tell, there are two basic requirements. One, you have to be a bit out of kilter, a strong dose of ADHD doesn’t hurt either. You have to hate repetition.   Second, it helps if you have a belief that there is almost nothing you couldn’t figure out how to improve. While thinking it doesn’t make it true, the attitude is a critical success factor.  It will also require being rather thick-skinned as some clients will require you to yell “unclean, unclean” as you walk their halls.

For example, last week I was at the post office.  Noon on the Wednesday before the holiday–lunch time rush hour.  I’m standing in a long line underneath a banner with a message emphasizing quality.

There are two clerks, postmen, postpersons, postladies–I’m not sure which one is most appropriate, but as we both know, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it either. The line is out the door. Clerk ‘A’ tells clerk ‘B’, “I’m going on break.” At which point I turned to the person next to me and uttered, “And I’m going to UPS.”   It’s not that difficult to improve.  Not letting half of your customer-facing employees go on break during your busiest time would be a good way to start to improve things.

It’s not rocket surgery. The title of the piece is not a typo.  Patients really do experience management, at least they experience many of their ill-conceived processes and rules.  Patient Experience Management, Patient Equity Management. Whatever you call it, big inroads can be made.  Quit thinking like an executive and start thinking like a patient and you’ll have plenty of ideas.


Patient Experience Management: Who is your Chief Patient Officer?

(This column is not outsourced to Mexico.)

How many chiefs can you name? C-Levels, not Indians. I found these–COO, CIO, CTO, CMO, CMIO, CEO, CAO, CFO, Chief Purchasing Officer, Chief Network Officer, Chief Engineering Officer, Chief Benefits Officer, Chief Development Officer, Chief Brand Officer, Chief Staff Officer, Chief Health Officer, Chief Legal Officer, Chief Quality Officer.

Besides who gets the corner office, these titles demonstrate a firm’s commitment to those areas of their business, and these positions provide that business sector visibility all the way to the top of the firm. There’s a certain cachet that comes from having your sector of the business headed by a C-Level. Those are the ‘in’ jobs, the jobs to which or to whit one is supposed to aspire. You never see anyone clambering for a B-Level position. B-Level is the repository for all non C-Level jobs.

Remember Thanksgiving dinner when you were a child—apologies to those of who aren’t from the colonies. Anyway, if yours was anything like mine, there were two tables, the nice dining room table for the adults, and the smaller card table for the children, the B-Level guests.

So what does this have to do with patient care? You tell me. Let’s go from the premise that the C-Level positions are an accurate reflection of you firm’s focus. Why are we in business? If you go from the premise it must be because of finance, marketing, IT, Purchasing, or any of a dozen other things. The only thing missing in this view of the firm is the patient. The only entity without a seat at the grownup’s table is the person in the firm responsible for the patient. It seems to me a firm’s very existence, it’s raison d’être, is the patient. If that’s true, when do they get to eat with the grownups?

McKinsey published a study conducted with 1,000 CEOs and COOs to rank their top 5 initiatives over the next five years.  Ninety percent of them ranked Patient Experience Management as either their first or second priority.  The punch line of the study was that they did not know who in their organization “owned” the patient.  How is that for leadership?

If they don’t own the patient, I am willing to bet the patient owns them. If that is the case, Social CRM, S-CRM, will not be doing these executives any favors.