Every restaurateur knows it’s not just about the food. It’s about how quickly the guests are seated. How friendly the server acts. How clean the silverware is.
Customer service 101, right? But how quickly we forget the basics…
I’ve been talking about the importance of the patient/consumer experience in healthcare for a long time. Usually, I focus on what happens outside of the hospital or clinic and, more specifically, the role and opportunities the Web provides to create positive experiences. But the fact is a health consumers’ experience with your organization starts long before they walk in the door and continues long after they leave.
Each touch point during this time—appointment reminders, the scheduling process and even the bill they receive— leaves just as much of an impression as the interaction they have with their physician. And many of these health consumers (and this number will only rise as Internet-savvy consumers continue to age) would like to interact with you online, and the ability to do so makes or breaks the experience for them.
Word of mouth –made even more powerful
I’m still amazed at how many people and organizations within healthcare have not yet embraced the importance of the consumer experience. For example, Susan Guirleo, PhD, blogged recently about why she fired her primary care physician. She loved her doctor, but resented her experiences with the staff.
Such examples of people talking about their healthcare experiences in such a public arena are becoming increasingly common, and often without the tact and anonymity of the offending parties that Dr. Guirleo provides.
With the emergence and popularity of Web 2.0, the reach of any single disgruntled patient is vastly expanded today over what it once was. More importantly, the overall perception of a doctor, clinic or hospital is about to become far more important than it has been in the past.
Patient ratings at their fingertips
You’re probably familiar with HCACPS – a standardized survey and methodology for measuring patients’ perspectives on hospital care. Bing recently began presenting these ratings directly in some search results.
Think about the implications.
When the most aggressive up-and-coming search engine looked at the one piece of information they could provide to help health consumers make decisions, they chose the rating patients gave to the facility. It wasn’t quality of care, cost information or their impressive doctors and treatment options.
It was the overall experience.
Quality care is assumed. What else will you provide?
Experience was the focus of a recent conversation I had with industry-veteran Ken Croken, Vice President of Corporate Communications and Marketing at Genesis Health System. Genesis is a forward-thinking organization and they know about this topic, having just won the coveted J.D. Powers award in 2009 for their Outstanding Inpatient Experience.
When talking about the importance of the consumer experience, Ken explains that quality care is assumed by patients. It’s how patients are treated through their visit that drives how they feel about it after the fact.
The experience is the culmination of a lot of little things. The impact of someone in housekeeping who asks a patient or family member if there is anything else they need after cleaning a room carries considerable power, as does a smile from a receptionist who gives the patient their full attention or a polite scheduler with good telephone skills.
This seems fundamental, right? But so many organizations are still missing the boat. For hospitals that haven’t seen the light, creating great experiences will involve a significant cultural change to institutionalize a customer service mentality in the organization.