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.

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.

 

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?

Revising patient interactions via social media and CRM

For those who don’t have time for 140 characters, or who don’t have much to say, I’ve created an alternative, smidge.com. The Urban Dictionary defines a smidge as a small amount of something, short for smidegeon.

This will revolutionize the interaction between patient/customers and the healthcare provider. We all know how annoying customers can be. Why should providers continue to enable bad behavior? They call, fax, email, and tweet. Enough already.

It’s time providers show a little backbone, show the customers who’s in charge.

Here’s how smidge.com works. Each time a customer interacts with you, give the patient their smidegeon account. Explain to them that this is their private way to communicate with you. It’s instantaneous, totally secure, and it operates 7 x 24 x 365. No more navigating IVRs, no more being placed on hold, no longer will they be transferred to another agent, never again will they be monitored for quality control purposes. Let the customers know that anytime they want to smidge, the world is theirs.

Explain to them that you are doing away with archaic forms of interacting; closing your call centers, throwing away your fax machines, and deleting your presence on the web. What are the advantages to your firm? They’re almost too many to document. Think of the capital savings. No more IT expenditures to support those millions of whining customers. No more CSRs complaining about not being allowed to browse the web, or about not getting their mid-morning break.

And now for the best part. In order to minimize bandwidth and storage costs, each smidegeon only allows the user to use each letter of the alphabet one time, meaning the largest smidge can’t exceed 26 characters. The longest message one could get is, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.  That being the case, there will no longer be any justification for the customer complaining that your company didn’t resolve their problem.The roles will be reversed. The upper hand will now go to the company.

How? Let’s look at an example. The patient wants to smidge the following change of address information, “We are moving on October 13 to 1175 Harmony Hill Road, Spokane, Washington. Please forward our bill.” Since smidges don’t allow numbers, we’ve already simplified the message, and the ease of entry. Now, if we translate the message into a correctly formatted smidegeon, we get the following message, “We ar moving ctb Hny l d Spk f u b d.” Now, how can you be expected to understand that kind of nonsense? If you can’t understand it, how can your patients possibly blame you

Patient Relationship Management (PRM)

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 Relationship Management  (PRM) 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 PRM.  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.

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

We made it to the bigs

Somehow, my social media article healthsystemcio.com made the top story of Chime Healthcare CIO SmartBrief.  http://ow.ly/2snrU

Not bad for a metaphorical tomato thrower.

Thanks for playing along.