Sunday, May 12, 2013

Is your healthcare consumer/patient experience disappointing?

Seriously, this is not just a sarcastic attempt to get your attention. It's an honest question about what hospitals and health systems do not get regarding the importance of the patient and healthcare consumer experience from first touch-point to last. The experience story for the patient or searching healthcare consumer isn't just about the patient care or the test. It is for all practical purposes the entire experiential encounter.

Let me relay a story of an encounter with a health system hospital. By the way it's about my recent experience, so no HIPPA is involved here and it's not hearsay. It wasn't bad, but sure did not met my healthcare consumerist expectations.

My personal physician orders a test and faxes it to the hospital central scheduling department. Central scheduling calls during the day when I am work so I call back the next day. Now, if they had really had been on top of the experience and technology, when I called back it would have gone straight to an individual and they would have had some basic info. This is quite common in the PBM and specialty pharmacy industry when calling back and they already know who you are by the number dialed.

Instead I get the "please hold for the next available representative". Okay, it feels like I am calling in for some kind of repair with no idea of how long the wait may be. I am finally an transferred to someone and go through doctors name, my name, date of birth, insurance, test etc.

Then they ask, "Where do I want to have the test done, hospital outpatient or satellite radiology diagnostic center? I thought hmmm, a choice of convenience. I make my chose based on location, distance and travel time. Then I get, "We can do the test on this day and time". So my needs and choice go out the window at this juncture of the conversation. "Sorry I work downtown and that's not convenient to me. I need a Saturday". Silence for a short period. "Okay what Saturday can you do this?" I gave date. "No we are closed that Saturday." Really? We finally settle on a date and time that is convenient for me not the hospital or staff.

The next part actually caught me by surprise because I was expecting a different outcome in the process than what happened. Here's is the experience disconnect, and it goes on everyday thousands of times in hospitals across the country and they don't even know it. I was expecting something very simple that happens in other industries every day, every time without failure.

"Will I receive an email confirming the test, date, time, and any special instructions prior to the test?" "No, just do what I told you and if you forget when the test is just call us back and we will tell you." It was the wrong answer. The answer should have been, "Yes, what is your email address, and you will receive written confirmation of all the details."

When I make a dinner reservations, buy something online, book a hotel room etc, I get written confirmation and all the detail electronically. Now that being said, scheduling a test is no different than any other those other experiences. And that's the point.

As you focus on all the internal experience stuff from your perspective, the healthcare consumer and patient's have very different experience expectations that you don't fully understand.

It's not about you anymore. Healthcare is evolving to a consumer-driven industry and its about the healthcare consumer and patient.

Maybe you should be paying more attention to what's going on in the world around you, and not be so internally focused with the answers that you think that you know about the experience? It's really not that hard.

But what it does take is a focus on the experience from first touch-point to last. It takes enabling technologies, and simple things that go on every day, every time without failure in other service industries that make the experience worthwhile and special. And that is what the healthcare consumer expects.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pheed.

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