Customer Experience in Hospitals: Patient by Name


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Over Christmas I managed to rupture my Achilles tendon playing tennis with my wife. As a result I am sitting here in a leg cast having had surgery to repair the tendon. It has been many years since I was last hospitalized and so I was an interesting opportunity for me to apply my customer experience skills to the health sector at first-hand.

As I lay in my bed recovering from the operation, attached to a machine that bleeped regularly as it tracked various functions including my blood pressure, heart rate and so on, it occurred to me that the one thing that was not being tracked was my satisfaction with the experience. So I decided to create my own ECG but in this instance the acronym doesn’t stand for ‘electrocardiogram’ but rather, ‘experiencecareogram’ – in other words, my satisfaction as a patient with the experience.

So what was my experience like? Well, if you look at my ‘ECG’ graph, which is attached as a download, you will see how my satisfaction levels rose and fell as I experienced each of the major touch-points through my journey. You can think of the mid-point of 5.5 as being neutral. Anything above that point is satisfying; anything below that line is stressful.

ECG chart copyright smith+co 2009

My journey as a patient

It began with the initial consultation. I was given an appointment to see a consultant at 09.45 so arrived a few minutes early to find a waiting room full of people. How can this be I thought, the surgery only opened at 09.00? I noticed that patients were being called by number and there was a machine in the entrance offering little numbered tickets. Belatedly I took one only to find out much later that this was for a completely separate process.

Eventually – at 10.30 – I was seen by the consulting doctor. He didn’t introduce himself or explain what he was doing as he examined me. He simply announced that I had a ruptured Achilles tendon and that there were two ways of treating it ‘conservative’ or ‘surgical’ which did I prefer, without explaining the implications (political or otherwise) of either? Having asked and been told that ‘surgical’ was likely to produce a faster recovery I elected for that. I was then told I needed to see “the junior doctor”. I am all for delegation but not when it comes to operating on my leg.

I’ve written a full article that takes this blog post further, analyzing my experience as a patient and applying behavioural/behavioral science to improving it.

The piece looks at how to apply Daniel Kahneman’s Peak-End Rule, and the Five Experience Rules that Chase and Dasu elaborated on and which all organizations, but particularly hospitals in this case, could learn from in improving the customer – in this case the patient – experience. To download the article, click on this link:

Patient By Name – An analysis of customer experience in hospital care and insights into how to re-design it

Shaun Smith
Shaun Smith is the founder of Smith+Co the leading UK based Customer Experience consultancy. Shaun speaks and consults internationally on the subject of the brand purpose and customer experience. Shaun's latest book 'On Purpose- delivering a branded customer experience people love' was co-written with Andy Milligan.


  1. Shaun: Thankfully, marketing professionals typically don’t perform surgeries. Health care professionals should exercise similar restraint when it comes to marketing. While it’s important for medical practices to pay attention to providing positive customer experiences, things can go badly when they try the wrong way.

    My story (which occurred about the same time as your Achilles heel debacle): I visited an oral surgeon for a consultation about a dental implant to replace an extracted molar. Following x-rays and a detailed discussion with the oral surgeon (board certified), I received a letter containing . . . a sales pitch for implants! Quoting from the letter:

    “Dental implants offer many benefits, such as” (bullet) “Scientifically proven track record” (no mention of the study, who conducted it, or what exactly the “track record” is.)


    “Dental implants are a scientific marvel that function much like natural teeth and enable patients to laugh, eat, chew, and smile with great confidence.” –maybe true, but as a patient, I’m not swayed by anything sold as a “scientific marvel.”

    Absent from the letter: any information relavant to my case. No treatment options containing pros and cons. No facts. Just a hard sales pitch for implants when I don’t really need to be sold. I’m the one with a missing tooth!

    The oral surgeon didn’t sign the letter. The individuals who did lacked any medical title. It was just as supercilious as a promotional letter my wife’s nail salon might send advertising a year-end special, except that the oral surgeon didn’t offer to enter my name for a drawing for a five-day Carnival Cruise if I scheduled my implant before March 30th.

    When physicians and hospitals market procedures in such ways, the effort can seriously backfire. It breaks down trust and confidence in the medical practitioner’s judgements. Nobody wants services pushed in the form of dumbed-down communications. I believe if the patient experience were considered, as you point out, a more nuanced and intelligent approach would prevail.

    There are great opportunities for those in the medical profession who sincerely want to get the customer experience right.


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