The Ten Commandments of Patient Experience

According to social media mavens, people are a lot more likely to read your blog if the title includes phrases like the five best, the six most, and seven things you should never do.

Hence, the ten commandments of patient experience.

When I began commenting about improving patient experience I drew comparisons of a hospital’s business processes to those in the hospitality industry, and I was liberal with my use of the word customer instead of patient.  Readers used to throw metaphorical tomatoes at their monitors.  Over time that angst subsided, was replaced by indifference, and most readers began to accept the notion that having a heretic in their midst was the new steady-state.

Few have accepted the notion that most hospitals ought to at least augment their patient experience focus to include what happens outside of the hospital—prior to admissions and after discharge, and fewer still are paying any attention to the largest group of stakeholders—non-patients.

After all, patient experience for non-patients is a non sequitur.  Or is it?  Most people who are discharged change their status; they change from patient to prospective patient.  For them to become a patient again, to be treated for something new or to undergo a new procedure, the hospital must acquire them. 

The unique thing about prospective patients is that all of them reside outside of the hospital.  If your patient experience focus is entirely within the hospital you have no idea what experiences those people have and whether or not those experiences are even satisfactory, a poor benchmark by anyone’s standards.

What are those unmeasured and unreported experiences?  They include access in all of its forms.  Scheduling, admissions, second opinions, billing, complaints, labs, and discharge.  They happen online and on the phone. 

And, if they do not happen well, they will not happen again.  Those people, whose experiences of trying to do business with the hospital are poor, will go somewhere else.  Those people, the hospital’s assets with a lifetime value of between $180,000 to $250,000, will move that asset to another hospital.  They are the same people who cost less to acquire as patients than do the ones who are not even looking at your hospital’s website or calling the switchboard.

Anyway, back to the commandments.  There is only one—

A remarkable experience for every person every time on any device.

How Can Reinventing Patient Experience Decrease Readmissions?

As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there.

Then I read an article espousing the ROI of EHR.  I leave it to you to decide if these two activities are one in the same.

I also read an article on reducing readmissions in this month’s HealthLeaders, Readmissions: The Big Picture.  Perhaps it is because my synapses do not work the way they were intended to work, but the first thing that came to mind for me was How could Patient Experience be reinvented to help contribute to the goal of reducing readmissions?  Could deliberately coloring outside of the lines help to solve a real problem?

It absolutely can.  One reason patients readmit is because of their failure to comply with their discharge instructions.  They do not do what they are supposed to do, they do not do it with the frequency with which they are supposed to do it, or they do not understand what to do, who to contact, how to contact them or when when something goes akimbo.  And worst of all, nobody at the hospital knows anything about these failures until the patient is readmitted.

Many of us have been discharged.  I remember the discharge process as the only thing standing between me and the front door.  I would have nodded to anyone and signed anything to be home and to have the hospitalization behind me.  I would read the fine print once I was paroled, once I had a real television remote in my hand, not some off-white three-channel device that was tethered to the hospital bed.  Is it possible that more than a handful of patients feel this way?

Since you cannot give patients a test to confirm they understand their instructions prior to discharging them, and you have no control of patients once they leave, is the situation hopeless?

Patient experience continues once patients are discharged.  Or it could.  Post discharge, most patient experiences—and family experiences—consist of calling the hospital for a variety of reasons; understanding discharge instructions, scheduling a follow-up appointment, scheduling a lab, understanding a bill, filing a claim—reasons very similar to those encountered by patients before they are admitted.  Unfortunately, the people being called may not know the right answer to any of these questions.  Unfortunately, the line may be busy; it may be after hours, or during the lunch break.  Access 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

They call the hospital.  How well did that work?  If the answer is not well, they may be on their way to having a very poor experience.  If it concerns their discharge instructions they may be on their way to being readmitted.

Here’s how we can tie reducing readmissions to patient experience.  It is not complex, it does not require and MD or a PhD, and it is not really all that innovative unless innovation means looking at solving the problem in a way that differs from the way solving problems is normally looked at.

It is all about access, two-way access.  Two-way access between the hospital and the patient.  Digital and mobile access.  Twenty-four by seven.  I know you do not do it this way, and the natural reaction to this idea is that some of you will have a long list of reasons why this cannot be done or why it will never work at your hospital.  It won’t work for people who do not want it to work, or who may not have the skills. One invalid excuse for it not working is not because it cannot be done.  It can, someone just has to tell someone to make it happen.

Let us take a non-natural reaction, just for a minute.  I envision the following—this is not exhaustive, it does not come from hours of research.  It is just a back-of-the-napkin idea that I would like your opinion as to whether it is worth another napkin or two.

What if the complete discharge summary, and everything patients needed to do, could be available to the patient and the primary care provider in real-time, at the time of discharge?  What if the patient’s behavior and compliance could be recorded, tracked, and reported?  Online access.  Perhaps on an iPad type of device.  Let’s use me as an example, me, the guy who was in too big of a hurry to get discharged to pay attention to my instructions.

Now that I am home I read the instructions.  I register on the website using some form of secure ID that pulls up what I need.  I read about my medications—what they are for, when I have to take them, possible side effects.  I discover that I can track my recovery progress on the site, enter when I take my meds, record when I may have exercised or gone to therapy, perhaps enter what I ate, my blood pressure, and weight. 

Maybe my wife logs in and helps me schedule an appointment, therapy, or a lab. If I schedule a lab the site tells me my instructions prior to having the lab work done, and I provide an electronic signature to confirm my understanding of those instructions.

If I have questions I use the online chat function, or I submit a question that will be replied to within an hour.

My primary care provider can access my progress.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of tasks, and it deserves more consideration than the twenty minutes it took to write this post.  However, if you pair the idea of decreasing admissions and increasing access, and do so using user-centered design to create an intuitive user experience you may be surprised by the results.

What Does Remarkable Patient Experience Look Like?

My mother would tell me, if a good idea goes in one ear and out of the other there must not be anything in its path to block it.

Procrustes—nicknamed the stretcher and the subduer—was an hotelier, well sort of.  Procrustes’ problem was his bed, his iron bed.  He told his invited guests that he only had one bed, and like Goldilocks, it turns out that his bed was always either too short or too long.  I should let you know that Procrustes’ actually had two sizes of bed.  That way he could ensure himself that his bed would never fit his guests.

He was not a very good host as his tendency towards sadism demonstrated.  Once a person agreed to spend the night Procrustes’ task was to make sure his guests fit the bed.  Those guests who were too tall were shortened; the shorter ones were stretched.

Something defined as Procrustean produces strict conformity by ruthless or arbitrary means.

Iron beds. HCAHPs.  Strict conformity by ruthless—CMS penalties—or arbitrary means—thirty-two questions that do not begin to cover the breadth of a person’s experiences with a health system.  Approaching it this way may make it seem everything is in harmony, and hospitals know they are all being held hostage to the same standards, no matter how wanting or abridged those standards may be.

For those who enjoy movies, one of my favorite lines comes from The City Slickers—we don’t know where we’re going but we’re making really good time.  Aren’t we though.

What if CMS added a 33rd question to HCAHPs?  The question asked of the patients—“What percentage of the time were all of the lights in your room working?” Indeed.  Here’s what I think would happen.  Press Ganey would sell you your data telling you just how many lights were not working.  The Studer Group would offer coaching services about fixing the lights, and your hospital would form a committee to figure out how to raise your scores.

When it is spelled out like this it is easier to see the fallacy of confining yourselves to the responses of thirty-two survey questions as the sole determinant of how people perceive your hospital. Why not use twenty-nine? Why not one hundred and eight?  Is every hospital identical?  Can all of the important experiences be so nicely bundled and wrapped with a bow?

Of course they cannot.

Think about access.  Patient access.  Family access.  Physician access.  HCAHPs do not address access.  Is that because access has no bearing on the experience and satisfaction of patients and prospective patients?  If access has a bearing, one might argue it has even a greater bearing than lights that always work, bathrooms that are always clean, noiseless hallways, and smiling staff.  If people cannot access the hospital using the time and means of their choosing then it is not easy for them to do business with it.

Access should be scored as follows—A remarkable experience for every person every time on every device.  Remarkable is easy to score.  The score is binary, it was or it wasn’t.  you do not put an initiative in place to take your remarkableness from a score of 7.23 to 7.33.  you put an initiative in place to take it to remarkable.

Where does your hospital score on access with regard to being remarkable?  What is your hospital doing to improve it?

Patient Experience: String Theory & God Particles

“The task is . . . not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.” – Erwin Schrodinger

My wife asked me to fix the kitchen faucet.

Did you know that faucets, especially the one at your kitchen sink are rather complex pieces of engineering?  I learned yesterday that behind the polished chrome are all sorts or tiny pieces, several of which, if you do not know ahead of time are there, can easily make their way into the drain that contains the garbage disposal.

About fifteen minutes into the process I got a somewhat Edisonian moment.  We have two kitchen sinks and two identical faucets.  Faucet number two would be my safety value, my manual for figuring out how to reassemble faucet one.  Or so I thought. 

Two hours had passed. Glasses and plates were beginning to pile up on the counters.  My wife was kibitzing from the sidelines.  Apparently she knew something I did not know about what it was she told me to do. 

I operate on very few rules.  One of them is that you can tell me what to do, or you can tell me how to do it, but you cannot do both.  If you know the what and the how then I am superfluous and you can fix the faucet.

I soon reached the point where I announced to my family, pack your things; we are selling the house

…I have become quite a fan of Breaking Bad.  One of the givens in the show is that whenever two stakeholders are involved one knows something the other one does not know.  Sometimes the audience knows something the actors do not know.  Sometimes the actors know something we do not know.  Usually one of the actors in the scene knows something the other actor does not know—kind of like fixing the faucet.

We are living in the age of string theory and god particles.  No two people operate on the same knowledge, nor can one person have an understanding of all of the issues and solutions.  Forests and trees.  We are tree people or forest people, and when one from each camp jointly evaluates an issue—I am a forest person—you are left with a faucet, though shiny as it may be, it may never again deliver water.

What that guarantees is that one or both of the people will stand firm on the notion that whatever it is that the other person is proposing cannot be done.  Everything can be done—string theory and god particles.  Loosely translated, and what the person across from you is trying to say, is either I do not know how to do that, or somebody is going to ask me why I did not think of that idea.

What I learned yesterday from the faucet debacle is that there will come a time when being a forest person will never get you the water you need to make a cup of coffee.  You may have a notion of string theory that you can espouse deftly on the back of a napkin to a librarian, but you could never get it sorted out to the point where you could explain it to a physicist.

Sooner or later somebody needs to ask the question What do you think?  Sometimes we need to recognize that the copse of trees in which we are standing is but a subset of the forest.  Hospitals are so focused on HCAHPs (the copse of trees) that they have lost sight of the forest.  We made sure our people know everything that can be known about tree bark. But we have trouble seeing beyond that tree.

Having singular knowledge is a great skill if you happen to be worried about elm blight—one species of tree amongst dozens of species in the forest.  It is worth little if your mission is to improve the health of the forest.

If responding to CMS—think HCAHPs—is what is keeping you awake at night you should consider taking a Benadryl.  This forest/tree conundrum is the penultimate elm tree versus national forest.

The ROI of Patient Experience

As a parent I’ve learned there are two types of tasks–those my children won’t do the first time I ask them, and those they won’t do no matter how many times I ask them.  Here’s the segue.

Hospitals have a gazillion business systems.  Every business system can include the following three things; people—doing things, processes—the way and order in which things are done, technology—whatever part of those things that may be automated.  Two examples of business systems—ordering your meal in the drive-through lane at Burger King; open heart surgery.

Believe it or not, from a process standpoint, each of the hospital’s gazillion business systems can be sorted into one of two buckets—Easily Repeatable Processes (ERPs) and Barely Repeatable Processes (BRPs).

An example of an ERP industry is manufacturing which executes identical business systems thousands of times—clean the Pepsi bottle, fill the bottle with Pepsi, put on the bottle cap, and place the bottle in the box.

Healthcare, in many respects, is a BRP industry. BRPs are characterized by collaborative events, exception handling, ad-hoc activities, extensive loss of information, little knowledge acquired and reused, and untrustworthy processes. They involve unplanned events, knowledge work, and creative work.

ERPs are the easy ones to map, model, and structure. They are perfect for large enterprise software vendors like Oracle and SAP whose products include offerings like ERP, SCM, PLM, SRM, CRM.

How can you tell what type of process you are trying to incorporate in your effort to improve patient experience? Here’s one way. If the person standing next to you at Starbucks could watch you work and accurately describe the process, it’s probably an ERP.

So, why discuss BRPs and ERPs in the same sentence with patient experience? The answer is quite simple.  Think of BRPs—barely repeatable processes—as those processes associated with HCAHPs; exception handling, unplanned events, and knowledge work.

Think of ERPs—easily repeatable processes—as those associated with all of the nonclinical touchpoints patients and prospective patients have with the health system.  Those include:

  • Scheduling an appointment
  • Scheduling labs & therapy
  • Requesting medical records
  • Getting information about whether a second opinion is needed
  • Admissions
  • Billing
  • Payment
  • Submitting a claim
  • Queries
  • Complaints

Here is what is unique about a hospital’s ERPs:

  • Every time a patient or prospective patient tries to complete one of these processes they have an experience
  • That experience is either satisfactory or unsatisfactory
  • The hospital has no idea if the person was satisfied
  • The hospital has no idea if the person will continue to be or will ever become their patient
  • All of these processes happen outside of the hospital
  • They happen on the phone and on the internet
  • They have nothing to do with HCAHPs
  • Hospitals do not measure these processes
  • Hospitals do not try to improve the effectiveness of these processes

Hospitals behave as though these processes have nothing to do with patient experience.  Just because hospitals do not acknowledge the existence of or the importance these systems have on patient experience does not make them irrelevant.

True story—a Top 5 US hospital.  A cancer patient between treatments who is experiencing the after effects of chemo calls the hospital to schedule a follow up exam.  She spends almost three hours on the phone.  She told me that because of that one event she will never recommend that hospital to anyone.

Now to the meat of the matter; money.  Healthcare may argue that they are not in business for the money.  While that may be true, they are not in business if there is no money.  So let’s talk about dollars.

  • One study concluded that each time someone contacts a hospital the potential revenue in play is seven thousand dollars.  Provide a good experience during that contact you keep the money.  Provide a bad one and some other hospital gets the money.
  • The average lifetime value of a patient is between $180,000 and $250,000.
  • The average lifetime value of a person who chooses a hospital other than yours is zero.
  • The cost of poor experience is low patient retention and very low referrals.

The taxonomy of 99% of existing patient experience business systems is that they are ineffective, unmeasured, and proving awful experiences at the places where people touch the health system—the phone and the web.

Ignoring these aspects of patient experience is no different than having your hospital’s CFO drive down the highway while pouring bags of money from the window.

What do you think?

Are Hospitals Looking in the Wrong Haystack for the Needles?

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

Gibberish (I thought Jibberish was spelled with a J) is good, and often insightful.

Sometimes I have to rack my brain to decide what to write; other times it is handed to me, just begging for a response.  This is one of the “other” times.

In the fable of “Chicken Little” the chicken believes the sky is falling because an acorn fell on its head—the chicken was wrong.  In the fable “The boy who cried wolf” the people in the village are fooled into believing a wolf is attacking their village.  The people are wrong.

In the CMS fable “Everything a hospital ever needed to concern itself with regarding patient experience,” CMS is wrong.  And to make matters worse, CMS has all of the providers focusing all of their efforts on catching the wolf.  What many do not recognize is that providers would have been doing these things with or without the hard hand of CMS.

It is much more difficult to find the needle in the haystack when you are not on the same road as the haystack.  Hospitals have already found many of the needles.  Their problem is that the remaining needles are smaller and smaller, and more difficult to find.  Thus, finding each subsequent needle costs more.  Hospitals have also missed the fact that right next to the CMS haystack are other haystacks with needles the size of javelins waiting to be found.

Case in point.  Another one of the articles in HealthLeaders’ August issue, “Patient Experience and Cultural Transformation.”  To be fair, the article is perfectly fine and is likely spot-on in its representation of the survey responses it received.  Regular readers of this blog will recall that I also took umbrage with another article in this issue in my post “My review of HealthLeaders’ lead article “New Approaches to Patient Experience.” Where’s the “New”? ow.ly/obdPp.

HealthLeaders is reporting the facts, just like when Sergeant Joe Friday in Dragnet requested “Just the facts ma’am.”

Sometimes the facts do not tell the story.  Sometimes somebody needs to question the validity of the facts. Sometimes somebody needs to ask “What are the implications of those facts?”  somebody needed to have asked those surveyed “Why?”  This is one of those “sometimes.”

The article presented the results of a survey sent to the HealthLeaders Media Council and select members of its audience. Two hundred and ninety-nine completed surveys were received with a “margin of error of +/-5.7% at the 95% confidence interval.”

In the opinion of this writer, the data in ‘quotes’, while likely 100% accurate from the perspective of statistical sampling—meaning they analyzed the responses correctly, is probably 100% inaccurate from the standpoint of the what they should be doing.  At best, what providers are doing passes the test of being necessary, but it does not pass the test of being both necessary and sufficient.  It reflects the reality of what provider executives perceive they need to do to improve patient experience. It is also worth noting that even though the responses in the article were segmented between providers and health systems, patients and prospective patients make no such differentiation when it comes to their experience.

In the sciences, when one gets a result that does not jive with one’s hypothesis it is often helpful to reinterpret the result by multiplying by negative one or by evaluating the inverse of the result.  For purposes of this blog, we are going to do both.

The article reports what its respondents plan to do regarding addressing patient experience.  I originally thought about using the word ‘improving’ instead of ‘addressing’ but I chose ‘addressing’ because I am not convinced that these efforts, if enacted, will improve anyone’s experience.

As an example, what if two customer experience surveys were compared side-by-side.  One for hospitals and one for hotels.  Might they look like this?

HOSPITAL

   

HOTEL

 

What is the NO. 1 goal of your patient experience efforts?

 

What is the NO 1. goal of your customer experience efforts?

         

Improved HCAHPs Scores

36%

 

retaining customers

99%

Improved clinical outcomes

33%

 

getting referrals from customers

99%

Improved market share

9%

 

improved market share

99%

improved word of mouth

7%

 

improved revenue generation

99%

improved revenue generation

4%

     

improved reimbursement

2%

     

other

8%

     

No one is arguing that for hospitals to be successful at patient experience that they need to think of themselves as hotels.  No one is arguing that hospitals should stop trying to manage pain or to reduce noise.  The argument is that there are plenty of other things hospitals could be doing to compliment their current initiatives, things which would have a much greater impact on improving experience.

What is the business problem hospitals are trying to solve as they wrestle with what to do about patient experience?  Are hospitals endeavoring by their efforts to create a remarkable experience for every person every time?  If they were their approach would be entirely different.  Are they trying to retain patients, to earn referrals, to capture a higher percentage of their receivables?  If they were their approach would be entirely different. 

The problem hospitals are trying to solve is to avoid the CMS penalty.  Hospitals’ expenditures of people and capital are not targeted to solve an actual business problem; the expenditures are to avoid a problem created for them.

The HealthLeaders survey asked, and the article reported answers to the following questions:

  • What is the number one goal of your patient experience efforts?
  • In which of the following patient-related areas do you expect your organization to focus over the next three years for patient experience improvements?
  • Please rank your motivations for investing time or resources to improve patient experience scores
  • Who has the primary responsibility for patient experience in your organization?

Permit me to comment on these in the order in which they were presented in the article.

  • The number one goal reported by hospital executives is ‘improved’ HCAHP scores. So, let us assume the hospital achieved its goal and rocketed to the first quartile, thus removing itself from CMS’ penalty.  What do they get from that achievement? Retention, referrals? Nope?

Is this goal not an example of keeping ones focus on the hole versus the doughnut?  None of the responses listed any mention of the word ‘patient.’ Less than one in ten respondents addressed improving market share, not that the planned efforts will do much to improve share. And, none of the responses mentioned making any effort to retain patients or to attract prospective patients. 

According to the survey results, hospitals’ primary focus are on trying to meet an artificial benchmark created by CMS without knowing whether achieving this benchmark is the best thing they could be doing to create a remarkable experience for every person every time. 

What if CMS had decided that those hospitals that had the most number of physicians shorter than six feet tall would be penalized?  Would hospitals fire the height-challenged doctors?  Clearly this is absurd. Or is the analogy comparable? 

  • I am stupefied, but being stupefied has become my comfort zone.  Hospitals are going to focus their efforts exactly where they have been focusing their efforts.  If hospitals all do the same things, and they each improve by a factor of ‘X’, then has anything changed?  Forty percent are going to focus on noise reduction—earplugs—ten cents.  Twenty-five percent on housekeeping—Motel Six can give pointers and they will ‘leave the lights on.’  Better signage?  Please. 

Improving patient experience is an issue that has the attention of most hospitals.  Yet the solutions being proposed seem to be sorely lacking the following initiatives:

  1. Innovation
  2. Transformation
  3. Patient retention
  4. Patient referrals

 

  • Motivation for the effort and expenditure.  If everyone’s motivation is relatively identical, what is the likelihood that the results will be relatively identical—that is, unchanged?  At some point in time won’t the height of every hospital’s physicians be six feet or taller?

 

  • Who is responsible for patient experience?  In three percent of the hospitals the chief experience officer is responsible for the experience of the patients.  Am I missing something here?  Does that mean only three percent of hospitals have this position, or is the position merely rhetorical?  Would the cafeteria manager have scored as high or higher.

Who is responsible for the experiences of the prospective patients? Apparently nobody.  Who is responsible for the experiences of people before they come to the hospital, after they are discharged, and of those wondering if they should seek a second opinion from another hospital?  If hospitals cannot agree as to who is responsible for their current assets (patients), then we can be certain that nobody is responsible for the experience or satisfaction of prospective patients (their future assets) or for those patients seeking a second opinion.

Glaringly absent from the response categories for this survey question are the roles of chief marketing officer, sales, and business development.  If that is a true reflection of the answer to the question of who has the responsibility, then what exactly is the responsibility of those organizations?

The tallied survey responses seem to be all about raising HCAHP scores and avoiding penalties; not about improving the experience or patients and prospective patients.  Does that seem to be the case in your organization?

I have corroborated my analysis estimating that the lifetime value of a patient is somewhere between $180,000-$250,000.  That means that a prospective patient is worth the same amount.  Add to that the revenues of a patient’s family and friends and all of a sudden we are looking at numbers that demand innovation and transformation around patient experience.

Patient Equity Management. Family Equity Management.

A remarkable experience for every person every time on any device.  If this is your goal, the value of having your primary focus be reducing noise, housekeeping, and signage needs to be rethunk.

Acquiring New Patients: Extreme Bingo Cruises

There are many ideas that spring to mind when one looks at how to attract new patients to a hospital.  One would be to offer extreme bingo cruises to patients after discharge.  Another option might be to sponsor open Karaoke in the admissions seating area.

Apparently nobody knows what it costs to acquire a patient.  It appears the same number of people do not know what it costs to lose one.  My take?  They are both very expensive.

It never occurred to me that hospitals actually had business development people.  While I knew they had marketing people because I see their billboards and hear their ads on NPR, I just assumed that patients were their own mini business developers—they get sick and seek out a place to get unsick.  I think more people are doing this than the business development people would like you to think, because if that is the trend then the business development role in a hospital becomes irrelevant. 

So does this business development thing work?  Can you prove it does?  I only ask because I keep asking what it takes to acquire a single new patient and nobody seems to know.  Does nobody track business development efforts or measure their costs against the number of patients acquired?  Trying to argue that fifty percent of the reason that a given patient came to your hospital to have their knee scoped is because they saw the billboard of your urologists is like trying to prove that one side of a black hole is darker than the other.  The math just does not work.

Suppose last year the combined budgets of your hospital’s business development group and its sales and marketing group were ten million dollars.  Let us also suppose that you were able to prove that your hospital acquired ten thousand new patients as a result of that ten million dollar spend.  Were that the case we could say the cost to acquire a patient was one thousand dollars.  If you acquired only one thousand new patients we would know the acquisition cost was ten thousand dollars per patient; five hundred new patients cost twenty thousand and so forth and so on.

Simple math, but nobody is saying what it costs and that is because nobody knows what it costs.  I believe strongly that if the real cost was only one thousand dollars to acquire a new patient that every chief marketing officer would put that message on a billboard and erect it outside of the CEO’s office.  Because those billboards do not exist, I am betting that it either cost substantially more or that the costs are never to be known.

So, back to costs and what is known.  We know that it is less costly to attract customers to organizations that are easy to do business with.  We know that it is less costly to do business with people who have already been your customers, probably to the tune of ten to one in terms of actual dollars.  The only glitch in that equation is that these former customers have to like you, and that they found it easy and beneficial to have done business with your hospital.

To conclude, it is much more cost effective to attract potential patients who have already demonstrated an interest in your organization.  Those people are the ones who visited you online, who called your hospital, who interact with you on social media, and who visit patients.  They are not the people who saw your billboard, heard about you on NPR or received a telemarkeintg call extolling your services.

Patient Experience with a JD Power Twist

Everyone knows the elephant in the room.  Unfortunately the elephant does not know any of them.

I read Toyota’s US president has decided to change Toyota’s business strategy as a result of the latest JD Power rankings.  Even though Toyota regained the world-wide leadership in car sales on July 30, 2013, it did not have a single car listed in JD Power’s initial quality results across all body styles.

“Perhaps all of the other automobile manufacturers have discovered automotive’s secret sauce.  We sell more cars than anyone else, but what good is that if we do not meet Power’s criteria.  Sure our customers swear by us, but what do they know about cars?” Asked James Edsel. “They just want something that looks cool, has great speakers, and a USB connection.”

James continued by explaining, “We have decided to follow the strategy of the US healthcare industry.  Health systems thought they were doing pretty well with their understanding of their patients’ experiences until CMS came along with its HCAHPs ratings and told them how to really measure the entirety of patient experience.  Now hospitals can see what a tiny fraction of their patients actually thought of their care months back when they received it.  They can pay money for their own data, and hire people to make their numbers look better the next time they pay for their data.”

“After all, why rely on what all of your customers and prospective customers tell you when you can simply go to one source and have them tell us what they think we need to hear.  One report and someone else does all the work.”

I’ll leave it to you to decide if there is a workable analogy there. To be fair, I heard the analogy while speaking with someone yesterday who is way smarted than me.

JD Powers is a business.  It conducts market research based on customer surveys. It then sells the research to the automobile manufacturers.  The big difference is the automobile manufacturers are not forced to alter their business model to raise their scores.

 

Improving Patient Experience: Why not try something new?

Success and failure are often separated by the slimmest of margins. Sometimes success hinges on how you present your idea. It is possible to force the circumstances via rapid evolution to pass from problem, to possible solution, to believable, to heroic? I believe so.

Permit me to illustrate with frozen chicken. Several hours before dinner I threw the frozen chicken breasts into the sink, choosing to thaw them with water instead of the microwave. Some twenty minutes later while checking emails I wondered what we were having for dinner. Not to be outdone by own inadequacies, I remembered we were having chicken. I remembered that we were having chicken because I remembered turning on the hot water. The only thing I couldn’t remember was turning off the hot water.

I raced to the kitchen. My memory of having forgotten to turn off the water was correct. Grabbing every towel I could find, I soaked up the man-made lake that had appeared on the hardwood flooring.  While draining the lake I thought about how I might answer to my wife if she happened to return to a kitchen during high tide. My first reaction, admittedly poor, was to tell her that I thought the countertop wasn’t level and that the only way to know for sure was to see which direction the water ran. Telling her the truth never entered my mind.

Once the major puddles had been removed, I worked on version two of the story, quickly arriving at a version of the truth that seemed more palatable—tell her I decided to wash all the towels. Why not get bonus points instead of getting in trouble? Version three looked even better. Since I was wiping the floor with the towels, instead of telling her I washed the towels, why not double the bonus points? I decided to wash the floor, and wash the towels. Husband of the year couldn’t be far off.

A few hours have passed. The floor is dry—and clean, the towels are neatly folded and back in the linen closet, and the chicken is on the grill. All the bases covered. A difficult and embarrassing situation turned into a positive by quick thinking.

A few of you have asked, let’s say we buy into what you are saying, how do you propose we create a remarkable patient experience? All kidding aside, it comes down to presentation. Clearly you can’t walk into a room with a bunch of slides showing that with all of your hospital’s efforts you have only managed to improve the experience of the patients from 7.25 to 7.27.  

The first requirement to turn stalled patient experience scores into a remarkable experience for every patient and every prospective patient every time is to quit focusing only on HCAHPs.  Think of it as a patient experience 12-step meeting; “Hi, my name is Paul, and my patient experience scores have flat-lined.”  See, that was not so difficult. 

And what needs to be done?  Why not take a deep breath and decide that the time has come to lead and innovate, and to stop relying on CMS to define what patient experience means for your hospital?

Here is a start for those looking for the first step.

Define the Total Quality of a person’s Experience (TQE). I use person instead of patient because prospective patients also have experiences when they visit family members, when they call the hospital and are on the web trying to decide where to buy healthcare.

TQE = Patient Experience (think HCAHPs) + Persons’ Satisfaction (all other touchpoints)

So, how did my chicken dinner turn out? I was feeling confident that I had sidestepped to worst of it. Overconfident, as it turned out. My son hollered from the basement, “Dad, why is all this water down here?”

 

Patient Experience: So what exactly do I do for hospitals?

A number of you have written recently asking what it is I do and how I might be able to assist their organization.

I have consulted on innovating patient/customer experience for twenty-five years, having run my own consulting firm for the last seventeen. My clients on five continents have a combined customer base of more than two hundred million.

Less than twenty percent of health systems have a working definition of patient experience, and of those that do it is defined around HCAHPs. My definition is a remarkable experience for every person (patient and prospective patients) every time on every device.  Major parts of what hospitals lack are a strategy to provide that kind of experience to both patients and prospective patients.  This includes linking a mobile experience strategy and a digital strategy.  Setting this as a goal enables hospitals to focus on improving not just the care, but also on improving patient retention, patient referrals, attracting new patients, and making it easier to do business with the hospital.

In healthcare almost every hospital regards patient experience solely as defined by CMS. That ignores the experiences and level of satisfaction of those not surveyed, people seeking second opinions, and prospective patients. It ignores the experiences occurring prior to admissions, and those occurring post-discharge. It also does not address experiences formed from nonclinical processes like scheduling, admissions, billing, claims, and complaints.

More people ‘visit’ the hospital each day by phone and on the web than walk in the front door, yet nobody knows how those people rate their experience and whether they will ever return.

Eighty percent of prospective patient’s visit a hospital’s website before determining where they will buy healthcare.  Fifty percent of patients go to a hospital’s website to determine whether they will seek a second opinion. Nobody who designed the website ever asked one of those patients what information they would need to find to help them select their hospital. 

I help organizations answer these questions.

I start by helping them define a strategy for what I call the Total Quality of a person’s (patient and prospective patient) Encounter (TQE) with the hospital.  Next I complete an assessment of where they are with regard to meeting the TQE strategy including developing:

  • A digital strategy including:
    • Websites—most hospitals have hundreds of disparate URLs
    • Social media and social CRM
  • A mobile strategy for meeting their needs on various devices
    • For example, why can’t a patient schedule an appointment online or do some form of self-admitting on an iPad rather than arriving at six AM with everyone else?
  • A Call Center Strategy
  • A strategy for improving Nonclinical business processes 

Based on the assessment we jointly set priorities and a work plan to create a remarkable experience for everyone.

Attached are a few brief presentations that offer some detail.  Please let me know if we may schedule a call or perhaps meet.

http://www.slideshare.net/paulroemer/defining-a-global-patient-experience-for-your-health-system

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

http://www.slideshare.net/paulroemer/call-center-strategies

You can reach me at paulroemer@gmail.com, or by phone 484-885-6942.

http://www.slideshare.net/paulroemer/how-to-acquire-patients-21677042