Don’t Overlook the Non-clinical in the Patient Experience!

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Patient experience is undergoing a renaissance, especially in hospitals. In the US, this is being driven in large part by the implications of the HCAHPS patient satisfaction reimbursement rules. In the UK, it’s National Health Service (NHS) reforms. As such, hospitals have been eager to hear from experts and learn from other industries about the most effective ways to improve Patient Satisfaction. The body of publicly available patient experience info is growing and in many ways it parallels that of the broader customer experience space.

One particularly informative Beryl Institute infographic recently caught my eye. It is entitled “Making Patient Experience a Priority” and it beautifully describes why patient experience is so important and outlines what needs to be done to build relationships with patients. The infographic puts the spotlight on what happens before and after care. “Before Care” includes things like connecting patients to information, helping patients with referrals, and engaging patients in events on prevention. “After Care” refers to things like following up on appointments, providing classes, and taking medication.

What’s missing is the opportunity posed by addressing the full patient experience “During Care”. While the “bedside manner” concept has been around for a very long time indeed and it is very important for clinicians to go about their job in an empathetic and caring manner, the non-clinical contributions to the experience are often over looked or denigrated. The big opportunity to improve the patient experience during care surrounds the non-clinical aspects of the experience.

A must read paper for any patient experience practitioner is “Clueing in Customers” published by Harvard Business Review in 2003. It describes how the Mayo clinic focused in on the seemingly insignificant – often non-clinical things in the experience to improve their patient experience. In our own work we have discovered the same. One of our clients, Rhonda Dishongh, Director of Customer Experience at Memorial Hermann Hospital System in Texas says the following about what they learned as they went through a customer mirror:

When we first started, I would have stood by and told you that I know exactly how a patient thinks because I have been a patient and [Mirrors were] instrumental in turning us around… even these steps [in the experience like testing, diagnose, treatment], we said these are the steps the patient goes through when they have cancer treatment but when we asked the patient what steps they went through it wasn’t the same… (click here for the full Memorial Hermann Hospital case study webinar)

In fact, what the patients were also paying attention to were non-clinical aspects of the experience like the hospital registration, business office, billing, parking, etc. Some of the biggest gains at Memorial Hermann were from addressing these non-clinical parts of the patient experience.

So with all of the focus on patient experience, do not overlook the importance of the non-clinical aspects of the experience. This is especially true of hospitals since often these gains can be had at minimal cost.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Qaalfa Dibeehi
Qaalfa Dibeehi is the author of "Achieving Customer Experience Excellence" and "Customer Experience Future Trends and Insights". He has 20+ years experience in the customer experience related space with particular emphasis on organisations that have a dual commercial and social/community responsibility. He is Non-Executive Director at Emerge. Previously, he was Chief Operating and Consulting Officer at Beyond Philosophy and Director at Fulcrum Analytics. He has an MBA from NYU and three other Masters Degrees from City U. of New York in Statistics, Psychology and Health Care Administration.

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