The Patient Care Experience: How to Move Toward an Integrated Experience


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In Showtime’s “The Big C” Laura Linney plays a Minneapolis mom diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. Aside from the pure admiration I have for the grace and humor with which the cast and writers have tackled her journey, I’ve seen something else in this show. Something that irks me about the patient care experience delivered by our healthcare system. Something that can be fixed.

The only person who has an integrated experience in healthcare is the patient.

Let me share what happened in a single scene and I bet you’ll agree:

Laura’s character Cathy pursues – and gets accepted – into a clinical trial. On her first day of treatment she arrives as requested, two hours ahead of her treatment to “process in.” Cathy brings in her companion: a 3-inch, 3-ring binder. To fill out all the trial paperwork, or answer questions raised by the intake nurse, she pulls out piece after piece of paper and makes several phone calls. Of course by the time she walks into her treatment, Cathy is anxious and frustrated (and I doubt the care staff feel much better).

Cathy’s 3-ring binder is a clear metaphor for a fragmented patient experience. For her care, she interacts with pharmacies, her family, doctors, therapists, specialists, emergency contacts, health insurance, friends, etc. She’s the common denominator among these players – but it’s her, the stage 4 cancer patient, doing all of the work to integrate them. And while the scene occurs in a clinic, the entire healthcare system has a hand in it.

This isn’t simply a plea for a seamless health record (although we need that). It is not an argument for Patient Centered Medical Homes or Accountable Care Organizations (although the idea of those is helpful). This is about Cathy. She is the only one who sees her experience as a single journey. She is the only one who decides the “need” she wants solved (Get as much time as possible with her son? Achieve her bucket list?), and measures if and how well it was or wasn’t.

Healthcare is the only industry where the “customer” experience is fragmented into so many pieces across so many organizations. The trend toward the “consumerization” of healthcare has barely begun, and the reality is that Cathy will be alone in integrating her experience for the foreseeable future. Leaders, let’s change this! Let’s change it not only for Cathy’s benefit, but for your organization as well. Every minute, dollar and shred of talent you spend on something that your “Cathy” doesn’t value, is time, money or talent wasted.

If you’re a leader, particularly in a health insurance, pharmacy or care provider organization, try these seven things to move your consumers and your organization toward an integrated experience and better performance:

  1. Purge the healthcare-speak. No acronyms. No payment codes. No jargon. Just simple language.
  2. Ask consumers about how changing their health contributes to living more of the life they want to live. (I’ve known for years I need to lose weight, but it wasn’t until I thought about the hiking I wanted to do in New Zealand that the coin dropped.
  3. Acknowledge the role you play in the overall consumer or patient care experience. Think about what your customer does before they get to you, and what they’ll need to do next. Design touch points accordingly.
  4. Take the patient out of the middle. When another organization does something that’s “wrong,” but no fault of the consumer, don’t make them do the work to fix it.
  5. Learn from other industries, and let patients manage their “account” online like they can manage their bank, credit card or Amazon purchases. Allow the ability to pay with a credit card and track purchases. (OK, I know this one isn’t easy by any measure.)
  6. You already ask patients to give you permission to share their health records with others you deem necessary. How about asking them who they would like to have their health records and follow that, too?
  7. There are a handful of moments in any experience that are “tipping points.” They have a disproportionate positive (or negative) halo impact on your customer’s success, and your performance. Identify them, and make them a top focus for the hard work you’re already doing to improve your organization.

I’m confident we have the power to make Cathy’s “process-in” experience – and all the fragmented pieces and parts she managed around it – a thing of the past. Are you with me?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Linda Ireland
Linda Ireland is co-owner and partner of Aveus LLC, a global strategy and operational change firm that helps leaders find money in the business performance chain while improving customer experiences. As author of Domino: How to Use Customer Experience to Tip Everything in Your Business toward Better Financial Performance, Linda built on work done at Aveus and aims to deliver real-life, actionable, how-to help for leaders of any organization.


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