If you’re one of the talented and courageous people working on the front line of health care, there’s little doubt that when posed with this question you’re going to say that you’re treating patients… and why wouldn’t you? After all, a patient is (most of the time) receiving your care out of necessity rather than choice. Your knowledge, your skills and your compassion are not products that can be purchased off a shelf or in an on-line shop and unlike a customer, the patient is not always right.
But here’s where it starts to get confusing. The patient is receiving care out of necessity, but that person did not have to come to your hospital to get it – most patients have a number of options open to them. Your knowledge, skills and compassion are not products that can be purchased off a shelf, but they are measurable and can be compared against others. What’s more, the interactions that you have with a patient will be talked about when the patient returns home and that will influence the future medical decisions of other people around them… much like a customer recommendation. And whilst the patient is not always right, they will still expect to be fully informed and to feel like they’re in the driving seat when making decisions about their own treatment.
Take a step back from the point of delivery and the lines blur even further. There’s no getting away from the fact that healthcare is a business. Treatment costs money, as do the people that deliver it – so focusing on the bottom line and ensuring healthy margins makes good business sense. The more money a hospital makes, the better people and equipment a hospital can afford and the way to make more money is to attract and retain more customers… I mean patients.
Actually, maybe I do mean customers…
You see, when it comes to taking a holistic view of what a patient ‘goes through’ when they visit your hospital, we’re dealing with far more than just their immediate medical care. If it’s a planned medical procedure, there’s the days, weeks or even months of communication before the procedure takes place. Then there’s the hospital experience itself. How comfortable is the bed, how clean is the room, what’s the food like, are there pleasant public spaces, is the patient kept well informed and are their emotional and spiritual needs met? What about after the medical procedure takes place… does the patient receive further support or a follow up?
So when we start to build a picture of our patient, we can see that the point at which they are laying in a bed receiving medical treatment is actually a very small part of a much bigger picture. Of course it’s the most important (i) because they wouldn’t be in your hospital if it weren’t for the procedure and (ii) getting a medical procedure wrong has huge implications on many levels… but the bottom line is, it’s just one part of a much bigger experience… an experience which this person has chosen to have at your hospital rather than at a hospital a few blocks away or in a neighboring city. This person has made a choice… and even if you insist on calling them a patient, you cannot deny the way in which they behave and the journey on which they go on is very much customer orientated.
When you add the aspect of choice to a journey, whether you want to call it a patient or a customer journey, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to recognise that hospitals with the best journeys quickly become the most popular. Attraction and retention rates creep upwards as HCAHPS scores improve and positive word of mouth spreads. Because of that, the hospital makes more money and the more money a hospital makes, the better people and equipment a hospital can afford. It’s a self-propelling cyclical process… the only thing that you need to do is make sure the customer journey is always improving.
And using technology to collect and analyse data about the customer (or patient) experience in real-time, at key points along the journey is the only true way to make this happen. Short, electronic, iPad based feedback forms enable your hospital to gather instant, direct feedback either during or immediately after an ‘experience’ has taken place. Instant feedback that means you can devise and implement change far quicker than a hospital relying solely on HCAHPS. Detailed feedback that means you’re able to understand the needs of your customers / patients better than ever before so you can get closer, faster to the perfect customer / patient experience.
Here at HCXperience Inc. we give you the means to measure and improve the customer / patient experience. If you would like to learn more, contact us today on 707.654.HCXP (4297).