The patient experience: 8 tips to help healthcare companies build one


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The New York Times recently released an article called “The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill.” What did I think?

Patient Experience

Our healthcare system has become “Skynet.” The system was created with good intention but has taken on a life of its own, and it has the potential to destroy us. No single human or organization can disable or fix it. (In the movie Terminator, Skynet, a military defense computer system designed by humans, gains self-awareness and starts a nuclear war killing billions of humans.)

The article details why the U.S. leads the world in health expenditures. Regardless of how you feel about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the article proves we have just scratched the surface for real and true reform. I find this line particularly poignant: “… a more significant factor in the nation’s $2.7 trillion annual health care bill may not be the use of extraordinary services, but the high price tag of ordinary ones.” It’s true. How many patients received a cost estimate before a procedure from any part of our healthcare system? Not many. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our patient experience is atrocious, and its $2.7 trillion dollar annual medical bill is killing us.

We have moved only inches toward a healthcare system of synchronous dots all working in concert for the benefit of its real customers (all of us). Instead, hospitals, clinics, medical device and drug companies, and health plans are tangled in a web that feeds upon the revenue and profit needs of other players in the web. For something as simple as a sinus infection, you’ll need the minimum of a doctor, a pharmacy and (if you’re lucky) a health plan. Sadly, they are connected by transactions and not by the patient experience. Each is focused on solving some aspect of the patient need without being responsible for it fully. The patient pays nothing, some or all of the costs, and the patient likely doesn’t know the total until weeks later. What if something goes wrong or doesn’t connect? Each player blames the other and it’s the patient’s responsibility to resolve it.

How can our Skynet healthcare system be disarmed? A few things must be addressed:

– Providers and insurers must be incentivized to put the patient’s interests first.

– Pay for procedure must shift to pay for outcomes, both for providers and insurers.

– Consumers need clarity on costs for all options available to them, in time to make decisions.

– Consumers need to be rewarded for being a “good customer” (and the system needs to define what that is!)

How can healthcare companies create meaningful progress toward the future while surviving today? Consider these steps to build the ideal patient experience for your business:

  1. Ask “What if?” What if the patient was paying you 100%? What would you change? What would they want from you? Who would you align with?
  2. Decide what your organization solves for consumers, and design the ideal experience that can solve it better than any of the other choices they have.
  3. Customers think and speak in terms of their health: “I must manage my son’s diabetes” or “I’ve broken my shoulder.” Organize visits, treatment options and billing in their language — not as co-pays or lab charges or treatment codes.
  4. Create an ideal patient experience map. Define the handful of “tipping points” in the experience that have a disproportionate impact on your patient. Learn how close or far away you are.
  5. Collaborate with complementary healthcare players. A little gun shy? Learn how the Cleveland Clinic and Community Health Systems are aligning to collect standardized quality data which will help them drive costs down and quality up. Understand how the job your customers are asking you to do fits into their whole, broader experience.
  6. Match your patient or consumer experience to the ideal experience for the other key groups you serve.
    • If you’re a health plan, look at consumers and group plan buyers.
    • If you’re a device company, compare the needs of physicians and patients.
    • Leverage where the experience requirements of the groups overlap and mitigate where they are contrary.
  7. Give your “voice of customer” insights a check-up. Assess what you think vs. what you know.
  8. Read the almost 5000 comments this article has solicited in three days. These are real life stories of the attack from our “Skynet” healthcare system.

If you’re looking for more, consider downloading an excerpt from my book Domino.

Or if you’d like to discuss your situation in person email me at [email protected].

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photo credit: Grufnik via photopin cc

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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