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?

 

Social CRM–Patients are like little thunderstorms

The web never ceases to amaze me. I’ve gotten to the point if I can’t find something I’m looking for, no matter how obscure, I figure that I did something wrong in how I framed the search.

For example, I was trying to connect to a high school classmate, someone I hadn’t spoken with since before Al Gore invented the internet. This guy got a pair of boxing gloves for his 14th birthday. We each wore one, and jousted only long enough for us each to land a blow on the other’s nose. It hurt—a lot. We gave up boxing.

In tenth grade biology, we bet him five dollars that he wouldn’t jump out of the second floor window. The teacher, who knew of the bet, turned her back to write on the blackboard. He jumped. Go straight to the office, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. We used to see how fast his red and white Mach II Mustang would go railing down Route 40. He was the guy you voted best person to keep away from bright shiny objects. The last I heard he went to a teaching college.

Anyway, I Googled him—from the imperative verb Google—I Google, you Google, he, she or it Googles. I can’t tell you his name for reasons that will soon become apparent. Google spits back links to things like military intelligence, think tank, counterinsurgency, small wars, and army major.  I think I’ve made a spelling mistake—this cannot be the same guy who jumped out of classroom window—and I add his middle initial to the search criteria. Up pops a link to CNN’s Larry King—the air date—just days after 9/11. The topic of the show; ‘the hunt for Osama Bin Laden’. To quote Lewis Carroll, “things keep getting curiouser and curiouser.”

The web. Social networking. A great tool if you’re one the outside searching, deadly in the hands of your customers.

If your firm is targeted, you are pretty much defenseless. Each patient is capable of creating their own digital perception of your hospital. True or false, makes no difference. Patients are like little thunderstorms popping up everywhere. Healthcare providers scurry around like frightened mice passing out umbrellas and pretending it’s not raining. They’re late, their patients are wet, and they are telling everyone. Very few firms have learned that they can’t put the rain back into the clouds.

Sort of reminds me of the line in the movie Young Frankenstein, “Could be worse, could be raining.” It’s raining, and even the best firms have run out of umbrellas. What is your firm doing about it?

 

When Patients Rule: Crowdsourcing & S-CRM

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 (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 Experience Management as healthcare’s Watergate

Below is the text of my article in Hospital Impact.

Patient Experience Management as healthcare’s Watergate

March 9th, 2011

by Paul Roemer

For the second straight year, HealthLeadersreports that Patient Experience Management (PEM) is one of the top three priorities for healthcare executives. A McKinsey study of 1,000 executives showed that for 90 percent of executives it ranked first or second.

Those results put my mind at ease on the issue about as much as Iran’s Amadinejad claiming its nuclear efforts are only targeted at improving the yield of their turnip harvest.

Recall the tagline of the McKinsey study–none of the executives knew who actually owned the patient experience, so little was planned for addressing this priority. However, several hospitals were expected to offer more heart-healthy alternatives in the basement cafeteria–I love strong leaders. Be on the lookout for the Amadinejad Turnip-Melt.

[More:]

Anyway, I digress.

Healthcare’s Watergate. Follow the money. Yet, there is no money to follow in two key areas, at least not an amount that suggests hospitals view either area with the same degree of import with which they speak to them. What are they?

  • Patient Experience Management (outflow)
  • Our old friend, Meaningful Use (inflow)

Missing is the planned expenditure that would come even close to making Patient Experience Management a priority. Don’t believe me? Print out a copy of your organization’s strategy, its budget, or its general ledger, and sort all of the planned expenditures from greatest to least. Stop reading when you reach the line item for Patient Experience Management.

Meanwhile, I am going for a run. If you find it before I return, wait for me, but you will not have found it by then.

You did not find the dollar amount budgeted for PEM did you?

Just to stay consistent, there is not much of a Meaningful Use windfall flowing out of CMS and into your neighborhood healthcare services provider either.

In general, money for what seem to be very high operational priorities is dribbling along so slowly so as to suggest these initiatives had prostate problems in the offing.

In addition to the fact there was no booth at HIMSS to showcase the most singularly spoken of topic, Meaningful Use, there was also no booth on Patient Experience Management. There was not a single PEM vendor. Why? Because the vendors know PEM, for now, is a unicorn-like ACOs–and nobody has ever seen a unicorn, so why bother trying to sell unicorn horn polish?

By the way, I need to borrow five chairs for a group photo I am taking of everyone eligible to receive Meaningful Use rebates.

Paul Roemer, MBA, is a healthcare strategist and Managing Partner of HealthcareITStrategy.com. Paul has more than thirty years of management consulting experience, starting with the Big 4 where he held national leadership positions, and the last fourteen years with his own international consulting firm. He has a passion for how we will live and function in the rapidly changing world of healthcare, and how information technology must provide for and help manage the change. He wrestles with how to turn the lack of information of what the business of healthcare will become, the lack of understanding of the issues, and the general lack of knowledge of the future into decisions we can make today to shape tomorrow. Paul has earned a presence on the national healthcare stage through his futuristic thought leadership, and is a recognized speaker and writer on a number of strategic healthcare issues.

Crowdsourcing versus Social-CRM

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

http://www.dachisgroup.com/2011/01/crowdsoucing-man-vs-machine/

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.