Patient Relationship Management (PRM)-why men can’t boil water

There was a meeting last week of the scions of the Philadelphia business community. The business leaders began to arrive at the suburban enclave at the appointed hour. The industries they represented included medical devices, automotive, retail, pharmaceutical, chemicals, and management consulting. No one at their respective organizations was aware of the clandestine meeting. These men were responsible for managing millions of dollars of assets, overseeing thousands of employees, and the fiduciary responsibility of international conglomerates. Within their ranks they had managed mergers and acquisitions and divestitures. They were group with which to be reckoned and their skills were the envy of many.

They arrived singularly, each bearing gifts. Keenly aware of the etiquette, they removed their shoes and placed them neatly by the door.

The pharmaceutical executive was escorted to the kitchen.

“Did your wife make you bring that?” I asked.

He glanced quickly at the cellophane wrapped cheese ball, and sheepishly nodded. “What are we supposed to do with those?” He asked as he eyeballed the brightly wrapped toothpicks that looked banderillas, the short barbed sticks a matador would use.

“My wife made me put them out,” I replied. “She said we should use these with the hors d’oeuvres.”

He nodded sympathetically; he too had seen it too many times. I went to the front door to admit the next guest. He stood there holding two boxes of wafer thin, whole wheat crackers. Our eyes met, knowingly, as if to say, “Et Tu Brutus”. The gentleman following him was a senior executive in the automotive industry. He carried a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. And so it went for the next 15 to 20 minutes, industry giants made to look small by the gifts they were forced to carry.

The granite countertop was lined with the accoutrements for the party. “It’s just poker,” I had tried to explain. My explanation had fallen on deaf ears. There is a right way and a wrong way to entertain, I had been informed. Plates, utensils, and napkins were lined up at one end of the counter, followed in quick succession by the crock pot of chili that had been brewing for some eight hours, the cheese tray, a nicely arrayed platter of crackers, assorted fruits, a selection of anti-pastas, cups, ice, and a selection of beverages. In the mind of our wives, independent of what we did for a living and the amount of power and responsibility we each wielded, we were incapable of making it through a four hour card game without their intervention.

I deftly stabbed a gherkin with my tooth pick. “Hey,” I hollered “put a coaster under that glass. Are you trying to get us all in trouble? And you,” I said to Pharmacy Boy, “Get a napkin and wipe up the chili you spilled. She’ll be back here in four hours, and we have to have this place looking just as good as when she left.”  I thought I was having the neighborhood guys over for poker; I was wrong. So were each of the other guys. We had been outwitted by our controllers, our spouses. Nothing is ever as simple as it first appears. We didn’t even recognize we were being managed until they made themselves known.

Who’s managing the show at your hospital, you or the patients?  The answer to that question depends on who owns the relationship, who controls the dialog.  If most of the conversation about your organization originates with them, the best you are doing is reacting to them as they initiate the social media spin, or try to respond once the phone started ringing.  It’s a pretty ineffective way of managing.  It’s as though they dealt the cards, and they know ahead of time that you are holding nothing.

There are times when my manager isn’t home, times when I wear my shoes inside the house—however, I wear little cloth booties over them to make certain I don’t mar the floor.  One time when I decided to push the envelope, I didn’t even separate the darks from the whites when I did the laundry.  We got in an hour of poker before I broke out the mop and vacuum.  One friend tried to light a cigar—he will be out of the cast in a few weeks.

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

saint Paul M. Roemer
Chief Imaginist, Healthcare IT Strategy

1475 Luna Drive, Downingtown, PA 19335
+1 (484) 885-6942
paulroemer@healthcareitstrategy.com

My profiles: LinkedInWordPressTwitterMeetupBlog RSS
Contact me: Google Talk/paulroemer Skype/paulroemer Google Wave/paulroemer

Abnormal


I remember the first time I entered their home I was taken aback by the clutter. Spent and wet leaves and small branches were strewn across the floors and furniture. Black Hefty trash bags stood against the walls filled with last year’s leaves. Dozens of bright orange buckets from Home Depot sat beneath the windows. The house always felt cold, very cold. After a while I learned to act normally around the clutter.

There came a time however when I simply had to ask, “Why all the buckets? What’s the deal with the leaves?”

“We try hard to keep the place neat,” she replied.

“Where does it all come from?” I asked.

“The windows.”

I looked at her somewhat askance. “I’m not sure I follow,” I replied as I began to feel uneasy.

“It’s not like we like living this way; the water, the cold, the mess. It costs a fortune to heat this place.

And, the constant bother of emptying the buckets, and the sweeping of the leaves.”

“Why don’t you shut your windows? It seems like that would solve a lot of your problems.”

She looked like I had just tossed her cat in a blender.

When you see something abnormal often enough it becomes normal. Sort of like in the movie The Stepford Wives.  Sort of like Patient Relationship Management (PRM). The normal has been subsumed by the abnormal, and in doing so is slowing devouring the resources of the hospital.

Are you kidding me? I wish. It’s much easier to see this as a consultant than it is if you are drinking the Kool Aid daily. When I talk to people about a statistic that indicates that 500 people called yesterday about their bill, and everyone looks calm and collected, it makes me feel like I must be the only one in the room who doesn’t get it—again with The Stepford Wives.

saint Paul M. Roemer
Chief Imaginist, Healthcare IT Strategy

1475 Luna Drive, Downingtown, PA 19335
+1 (484) 885-6942
paulroemer@healthcareitstrategy.com

My profiles: LinkedInWordPressTwitterMeetupBlog RSS
Contact me: Google Talk/paulroemer Skype/paulroemer Google Wave/paulroemer

If I ask about it they always have an answer.  “Billing calls are usually around 500 a day.”  They say that with a straight face as though they are waiting to see if I will drink the Kool Aid. It’s gotten to the point where no matter how bad things get, as long as they are consistently bad, there not bad at all.

This is the mindset that enables the PRM manager (I know you don’t have one—I am being facetious) to be fooled by their own metrics. When is someone going to understand that repeatedly having thousands of people calling to tell your organization you have a problem, means you have a problem?

It would probably take less than a week to pop something on your web site, and post a YouTube video explaining how to read the bill.  Next week, do the same thing and help patients understand how to file claims and disputes—granted, you may need more than a week for this one.

Patient Relationship Management (PRM): 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 Relationship Management (PRM) 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, PRM 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, PRM.

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.

saint Paul M. Roemer
Chief Imaginist, Healthcare IT Strategy

1475 Luna Drive, Downingtown, PA 19335
+1 (484) 85-6942
paulroemer@healthcareitstrategy.com

My profiles: LinkedInWordPressTwitterMeetupBlog RSS

I hate to be a pest…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.slideshare.net/paulroemer/good-CEM-deck

saint Paul M. Roemer
Chief Imaginist, Healthcare IT Strategy

paulroemer@healthcareitstrategy.com

My profiles: LinkedInWordPressTwitterMeetupBlog RSS

Patient Relationship Management & Patient Equity Management

Here’s a link to my deck on the above. I’d like to read your thoughts.

http://www.slideshare.net/paulroemer/good-CEM-deck

Patient Relationship Management–A 12-step program

The room was filled with the aroma of stale coffee. The anxious looking guests made idle conversation, averting their eyes so as not to look into the eyes of the person next to them. The folding metal chairs were arrayed in a circle. At the appointed time they sat.
A man with a hardened look stood to speak. “Hi. My name is John, and I haven’t spoken to a patient in four months.” As he began to sit, the others responded in unison, “Hi John.”

The rotund woman across from him rose and composed herself. “My name is Mary, and I haven’t spoken with a patient today.”

“Hi Mary.”

This same process occurred until all who wanted had said their piece. Hospital executives. Male and female. Some had earned their stripes caring for patients.  Others, even though they were in charge, had never met one. Recovering clinicians and physicians.

The good news is that the program works. The longer the executive goes without speaking to a patient, the longer they are likely to go. The break-even point seems to be about two weeks, the same amount of time it takes to paint a house. Once an executive has gone two weeks without speaking to a patient, there is almost no chance of slipping into that nasty old habit.

When was the last time you caught one of your executives sneaking a chat with a patient?  Probably never. Old habits aren’t so tough to break, especially when those habits never existed.

PRM Roadkill

(AP) New York. CNN reported that PRM 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.

A fellow, David Phillips, wrote, “Relationships should be considered part of the intrinsic value of the corporation”—he is an auditor. I read a paper co-authored by a slew 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? 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. I’d wager my son’s allowance that nobody uses 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 patients impact them individually, one at a time.

Technology metrics apply to patients—plural. Technology metrics are averages—patients aren’t.  You are measuring against the masses.  The mass does not churn, does not leave your hospital, does not ask to speak to a supervisor.  If I am the patient, not a single metric, not a single measure in your hospital accurately depicts the success or failure of our interaction.

So, what’s a mother to do? Stop pretending you are managing your business by managing relationships—since it’s not possible to do the latter, it follows logically that you can’t possibly be doing the former.

Here’s what you can do, manage your hospital using things you can measure. You 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?

Show these to the VP of Operations and all of a sudden you have something to talk about. Show the VP how much you reduced some global metric—so what?

An idea for improving Patient Relationship Management

This won’t solve all of your problems, but it’s a good start–sort of like 1,000 lawyers on the bottom of the ocean.
www.nophonetrees.com

Who knows, perhaps your organization is included.

What’s the ROI from Social Media for a hospital?

Did you know there’s a hospital in the US whose web site gets 2,000,000 hits a month?

Did you know that same hospital tracks how patients made the decision to use their services?

Did you know that more than $2,400,000 dollars in fees came about as a direct result of the web site?

I’d bet the ROI on that exceeds everything else in the hospital.

can you apply social media to Patient Relationship Management (PRM)

A consultant was on one side of the river; his client was on the other side. The client hollered, “How do I get to the other side?”  The consultant thought for a moment and hollered back, “You are on the other side.”—don’t try this at home kids, we’re professionals.

It goes without saying that rarely am I regarded as one with a high capacity of tolerance.   When things get tough or when meetings are exceedingly dull I like to go to my happy place. Sometimes I get to go to my happy place when I least expect it. Like the time my coffee machine started leaking all over the floor.

Having met such unheralded success repairing my mixer, naturally I took apart my Capresso coffee maker. Not many parts. I put it back together thinking the simple act of dismembering it might have caused it to self-heal. Fill it. Turn it on. Puddle. I called Capresso started to explain my problem. Before I had a chance to finish the rep told me what caused the problem, asked for my address, and said they would mail a new gasket overnight for free, as in F-R-E-E. No proof of purchase needed.

Talk about managing the customer experience and taking the lead on social networking.  What types of things could you be doing to improve Patient Relationship Management (PRM)?  How could social networking help you improve PRM?

Let’s talk.