Patient Experience: Not understanding UX and UI is killing Patient Experience

UI and UX seem to be two terms that have yet to make their way into healthcare. One way I like to think of the application of design thinking in hospitals is to compare the hospital’s lobby to its website.

Millions were spent to make the lobby user friendly, to create a remarkable first impression.  There is a receptionist and maybe a sign or two pointing to the ER or the Lab.

The website is a different matter–as is the call center.  The website’s homepage offers the ‘kitchen-sink’ to visitors, patients and prospective patients. Dozens of links, Flash, every phone number you may ever need.  Users can learn about the board and make a donation. They can do everything except find the link they wanted. 

Ninety-nine percent of visitors are either patients, people trying to decide if they are going to seek a second opinion–from some hospital other than yours, or prospective patients trying to make a healthcare purchase decision. The average person spends seven seconds on a web page looking for what they want.

What that tells me is the average person is leaving the average hospital’s website unsatisfied and with a poor experience. Why is nobody interested in improving that experience?

Patient Satisfaction: Why Hospitals Are Losing the Battle for Patient Revnues

Sometimes you choose to write; other times you have no choice but to write. This is one of those other times.

For those of you who believe most business situations can be tied to something related to Mel Brooks you will appreciate this. In his movie History of the World Part One, Brooks plays the role of Moses descending from Mount Sinai with stone tablets of the fifteen commandments.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YX-gqRdK_8

One set of five of them falls, hence the reason there are only ten.

Several hundred of you have read my presentation Step Aside HCAHPs; The Questions Hospital Executives Should Be Able To Answer.

http://www.slideshare.net/paulroemer/step-aside-hcahps

One reader remarked that HCAHPs includes thirty-two questions, not the twenty-seven that were referenced in my slide deck.  I would like to be able to argue that as I was leaving CMS I dropped the stone tablet containing questions 28-32. I would also like to be able to fly.  Unfortunately, I can do neither.

That said, focusing on the number of questions in the survey obfuscates the point.  The number of questions CMS put forth has only a little to do with the issue of whether their questions constitute the Total Quality of a Person’s Encounter (TQE) with the hospital.

Image

As the picture above depicts, the effort to address patient experience only from the perspective of HCAHPs ignores much of what patients experience.  That same effort ignores all of what prospective patients, people who are trying to decide where to buy their healthcare, experience.

Let’s say your hospital treats five hundred patients a week, and thirty percent of them (150) return their surveys five months later.  The hospital may then initiate a program or two to try to raise its lowest scores.  Even if it is effective, it will not impact the experience of those who completed the survey, but it may increase slightly the scores of some future group of respondents.  The only people who will ever know are future patients.

People who will never know, and who don’t know anything about your HCAHPs scores are the people who were never your patients.  In know I am stating the obvious, but I do so because the potential revenue from that group, from the non-patients and the prospective patients, is probably greater than the revenues generated by the current patients.

Let’s also say that your hospital, the one that treats five hundred patients a week, also receives a thousand phone calls a week, and that three thousand people a week ‘visit’ the hospital via the internet.  Let’s also add another five hundred people a week who visit your patients.

That totals forty-five hundred people who experience the hospital in one form or another.  Were they satisfied?  Who knows?  They were not surveyed.  Nobody asked them what they liked. Nobody asked them if they found what they were looking for.  Did any of them decide to buy healthcare from your hospital?  Why or why not?  Did your internet presence meet their need; did the call center or the switchboard?

The lifetime value of a patient is estimated to be between $180,000 to $250,000.  The average number of people per household is three. So, for every patient you can attract and retain, plus their family members, their potential value to your hospital is $540,000 to $750,000.

Instead of Patient Experience Management, hospitals should be focused on Patient Equity Management. If a hospital lost four $2,000 computers in a week, it would learn quickly how not to lose a fifth. Hospitals lose patients and potential patients every day.  They do not know how many.  They do not know why. And, they do no know how to get them back.

Now watch what happens.  What if of the forty-five hundred people—the non-patients—you could get one percent of them (45) in any given week to decide to become your patient?  What might that amount to in terms of revenues? If you can get one percent a week, over a year, 45 people become 2,340.  Twenty-three hundred and forty people multiplied by the lifetime value of a single person’s revenue is a really big number—about four hundred million—a number so big it is silly; multiplied by the value of their family members is too big for me to count.

Now there will be those who want to argue that my numbers are way off.  To you I suggest that you make them smaller, make them a lot smaller.  Even if I am off by a factor of a hundred, which I am not, that is a $4 million dollar annual increase.

Patient Experience: How Awful is your Website?

Egypt’s Morsi, the deposed president, has a Facebook page. I am not having much luck trying to picture him sitting in his pajamas updating it with the type of music he listens too and posting pictures of himself having a beer and a dog at a ballgame.  I find myself wondering if he and Syria’s Assad have ‘friended’ each other.  One would think the club of tyrants is fairly tight.

Today’s missive provides a hands-on look at patient experience. My wife and I were up at four AM, and reached the hospital on the outskirts of Philadelphia at six.  The very first sign we saw was this announcement, “Valet Parking for Handicapped Patients is $2 off.” Was I handicapped, and arriving for surgery without having had my coffee, the two dollar discount would have me waiting with baited breath for the opportunity to complete my customer satisfaction survey.

Having a few hours on my hands, I turned to the hospital’s web site to see if it provided an experience any more remarkable than the parking.  At first blush it appeared to provide links to everything.  Many of the links led to black holes; you followed a succession of links until you hit a dead end.  You were unable to accomplish whatever it was you set out to do, but there was enough stuff to make it feel like there must be a pony hidden somewhere amongst the detritus. 

There was a link if you wanted to make a donation, one for doctors, one for nurses, one for members of the board, more than two-dozen phone numbers, some videos, how to follow them on social media—displayed in two different places, links to teach you how to ‘eat on the go’ and how to know if you are pregnant—go to CVS, a place to view all of their awards, health information, directions, contact information, and even one for patient and visitor information.

Your website’s homepage should not be a catchall for everything someone in IT can dream up. I would estimate that more than ninety-five percent of visitors to your website are either patients or potential patients. Yet, the link for patients is no more prominent than the link for learning how to eat on the go. The website actually allows you to make a donation online.  It does not allow you to pay your bill.

Many home pages have the look and feel of Craigslist but without the functionality.

Fifty percent of patients go to a hospital’s website to determine if they will get a second opinion.  Eighty percent will visit it to determine if they will become your patient.  Behind which of those links is the information that will help them make their decision?  Which bit of information will cause them to stick with your hospital?

Some people are all set to buy healthcare from another hospital, yet they are at your web site to see if maybe they should go with you.  Some people are all set to buy healthcare from your hospital, yet they are at your website to see if maybe they should go somewhere else.

Has anyone in your health system ever asked either group of people what they need to find on your website to get them to select your organization and then designed a website to accomplish that?

According to Nielsen, users will stay on a web page for 10-20 seconds.  First time visitors spend less than that. If they do not find a value proposition, something to compel them to stay they leave.  The average visitor only reads twenty percent of what is on the page.  Look at your hospital’s homepage.  Think about how much you can accomplish in ten seconds.  If you were thinking of seeking a second opinion, could you even find what you were looking for?  On average, 70% of people leave the site, and hence purchase healthcare somewhere else because they could not find what they needed.

They were dissatisfied.

They had a bad experience.

Patient experience occurs before someone gets to the hospital, and it occurs outside of the physical building.

Defining a global patient experience

My presentation, according to Slideshare, “Defining a global patient experience for your health system”  is being talked about on Linkedln more than anything else on SlideShare…http://www.slideshare.net/paulroemer/defining-a-global-patient-experience-for-your-health-system

The Downside of Patient Experience

The Enchanted Forest was my first employer. My job was to direct cars to available parking, affix bumper stickers to those cars, and pick up the discarded Pampers—I lasted less than a day.

I mention that because today I had the pleasure of laboring through security at Philadelphia International Airport. Cattle awaiting slaughter in Chicago’s stockyards have a better experience.  Given the choice of being a TSA agent or picking up Pampers at the Enchanted Forest I’ll take the Pampers.  Lest we forget, all Americans should be forced to go through airport security once a year just to remember what those clowns did to us on 9-11.

I am flying USAIR; not by choice.  One of my fellow alums, our school’s poster child for success, is the CEO of USAIR.  I bet he flies Southwest, or maybe he does the John Madden thing and rides in his own bus whenever he has to travel.

Remember the old airline slogans, “We love to fly and it shows,” and “Fly the friendly skies of United,” and Delta’s “We’re ready to fly when you are”?  Today the universal slogan of the airline industry is, “We don’t like flying any more than you do, but hey, it’s a job.  We are no worse than the other airline.”  There is no pretense about competing on customer experience.  Far from it.

Airlines no longer even pretend to compete on price. It is almost as though they compete with one another to see which airline can come up with the most irritating surcharges.  Should we be forced to make an emergency water landing—as though there is anything other than an emergency water landing—your seat cushions may be used as flotation devices.  There is a five dollar non-refundable charge for those who may wish to use their seat cushions to save themselves and their loved ones.  A flight attendant will be passing through the aisle to collect payment and unlock your cushion.

To board the plane I had to pass between two closely aligned, six-foot, vertical, buttered rollers that were designed to lubricate both sides of each passenger to enable passengers to squeeze into the aircraft’s Barbie Doll seats.  As I am seated in an exit row I decide to take advantage of an on-the-spot micro-business opportunity.  I stand and announce to my fellow passengers, “Should we be forced to make any type of emergency landing you may wish to exit the plane.  There is a five dollar non-refundable charge for those who may wish to exit through my window exit.  I will be passing through the aisle shortly to collect payment.

The marketing campaign for the airline industry seems as though it was pulled almost word for word from the Les Misérables song, Master of the House.  “It doesn’t cost me to be nice, nothing gets you nothing, everything has got a little price. Master of the house, keeper of the zoo, ready to relieve them of a sous or two…charge ‘em for the lice, extra for the mice, two percent for looking in the mirror twice.”  Essentially their customer retention plan is we can do whatever we want to you…if you don’t like it you can always walk.  “Two percent for looking in the mirror twice.”

Customer experience.  Patient experience.  Driving to the airport this morning NPR ran an advertisement from a Philadelphia hospital that was touting its hip and knee replacement offering.  You may not know this, but hospitals have a department that specializes in business development—I kid you not.  Highly trained individuals, MBAs—most likely all of the airline CEO positions were taken, toil day after day trying to figure out the answer to the question that has plagued mankind since the invention of the Band-Aid, ‘How do we get sick people to come to us’?  Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…healthcare’s business development strategy could be dubbed the Statue of Liberty strategy. 

Sometimes the business development people get together with the marketing people—it is like a Mensa meeting minus the mense—no need to look it up; I was just going for the alliteration.  I think this is how the billboard strategy of attracting patients came into being.  You know the one about which I am writing.  A mile or so from every hospital is a mammoth billboard depicting a photo of the hospital’s urologists—substitute your favorite specialty—all of whom are smiling.  I think the idea behind the billboard is to entice you to use their services should you happen to be passing a kidney stone as you are driving by.  (I read that in California the photo of the urologists has been replaced with a photo of the nip-&-tuck squad.)

What many hospitals seem to have failed to notice, or to have made operational, is that prospective patients choose their providers.  This has been going on for well more than a decade.  I know this because when I had my heart attack the ambulance driver determined where I was to be treated, a hospital fifteen minutes from my house.  For the last ten years I have chosen to travel more than an hour each way to the cardiologist I selected.  The original hospital, which has lost tens of thousands of dollars by not retaining me, does not even know if I am alive.  They never called to find out.  By the way, they have a lot of billboards.

Patient choice is undermining a lot of hospitals’ revenues.  As much as the healthcare industry would like us to believe that people choose their provider only based on specializations and mortality rates, other factors come into play.  One of those other factors, perhaps the biggest factor, is patient experience and their satisfaction with that experience.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America seem to have figured that out.  Their advertisements appeal to our base Freudianish needs, that the individual is special and wants to be treated as such.  CTCA does not advertise that you will not die if they treat you.  Their advertisements and their testimonials focus on the fact that their patients are treated like family. 

Essentially CTCA  have figured out that it is good business to approach cancer patients as smart customers.  CTCA cannot campaign on the fact that their patients don’t die.  Unfortunately cancer patients die, so that dog don’t hunt.  They cannot campaign on the fact that their treatment doesn’t make you nauseous, but as I also know from personal experience, chemo is awful, so that dog don’t hunt either.  So CTCA claimed the unclaimed ground, the ground over which none of their competitors are fighting; patient experience.

The CTCA’s phone lines are open 24 x 7, or you can reach them through a chat line to let them convince you about their integrated, specialized plan to treat you.  (They do not however have an iPad app which means they just lost points in the patient experience bonus round.)

Their patients travel across states at great personal expense.  Their patients are willing to pay more for even the possibility of a better experience.

I’ll close with this.  Almost every hospital has at least one MRI.  Each MRI probably delivers the same high quality images.  Each hospital probably has equally competent radiologists to read the images.  What then is your hospital’s competitive advantage?  Perhaps it is time to be able to answer that question.  The downside of competing on patient experience is that to do so you had better be pretty good at it.

Why not Improve Satisfaction Instead of Measuring it?

­One of the uncomfortable things about flying is how close you are to the other passengers.  On my return flight from Florida I could see from his teeth that the passenger in the window seat must have had spinach for lunch.  The most troubling part of my observation was that the passenger was in another plane, and neither of our planes was on the ground.

To back track for a second, I observed something else on my drive to the airport.  We are all familiar with the painted white lines that divide the road lanes.  On some roads, raised reflectors have been inserted into the road’s surface in addition to the painted lines.  At night these road nibs reflect your car’s headlights helping you to stay in your lane.

What’s your point?  If asked the color of these nibs we would response that they are white, just like the white strips.  Those who answered white would be half right.  As I looked in my rearview mirror I caught a glimpse of the backside of the nibs, and for some reason I was surprised to see that unlike the front, the backs of the reflectors were red.  It occurred to me that the reason they are red is to warn you that if you see red you are going the wrong way.

It goes to show you that just when you think you have the answer it may be time to look in your rearview mirror; you may be going the wrong way.

That may be where some, if not most, hospitals are with regard to patient satisfaction.  But, don’t feel you have to take it from me.  According to Amednews.com, “The study by Rozenblum and his colleagues said there seems to be more emphasis among health care organizations on measuring patient satisfaction rather than on improving the patient experience.” March 13, 2013.

This bears repeating…there seems to be more of an emphasis among health care organization on measuring patient satisfaction rather than on improving the patient experience.

Stack all the reports your organization has purchased concerning patient experience data.  Those reports show your hospital’s scores, how your hospital compares to other hospitals, means, averages, standard deviations, and the square root of the hypotenuse.  Now, next to the stack of reports, stack all of the money your hospital has saved by implementing what it has learned from the reports.

I’m sorry, can you speak up?  Oh, you said you have not saved any money.  Well, let’s try another tactic.  Let’s have dinner for every patient that the experience data helped the hospital retain plus all of the new patients referred based on the things learned from the patient experience data.

J’ai mangé seul.  That is French for ‘I ate alone’.