There has been a lot of buzz this past week in industry publications, about hospitals and health systems seeing customer centricity as being a viable business strategy for growth and success. It began with the American Hospital Association meeting, reported in the article Treating Patients as Consumers is a Growing Strategy, H&HN January 21, 2015, by Paul Barr.
But let’s expand the discussion from a technology and service development focus, to catch up with the market shifting to a semi-retail model of medicine, driven by market innovation and the influence of more sophisticated healthcare consumer, to what it means absent the innovation and hiring people from consumer focused retail industries.
What does it mean to develop and execute a strategy to treat patients as customers?
It’s not an easy question to answer. I have worked for enough hospitals, health systems and vendors in leadership positions to live through the declarations of customer or even sales centricity. It’s more than hiring new talent. It’s more than just catching up and using technology more efficiently. It is a whole lot more than declaring it’s all about the customer.
It all starts with the culture.
Customer centricity doesn’t happen overnight, especially in healthcare enterprises that have had an internal instead of external focus. It isn’t driven by technology, though that is a tactic and solution. It’s not just a one and done training program. It’s not a line in the business or strategic plan.
It really starts and ends with the culture and focus of the organization.
An organization can not treat patients or the healthcare consumer as a customer, nor be successful in the endeavor, if the very soul of the healthcare enterprise leadership, focus and culture is not devoted to the customer.
It’s all about the healthcare consumer or patient. The only thing that matters is meeting the needs of the patient or healthcare consumer. It’s not about the hospital or health system in many ways. Focusing on and meeting the needs of the customer is the single most important trait and hallmark of successful companies. And that lesson I learned from working at Walgreens corporate. Walgreens is on to something when you look at a $76 billion plus international retail company, transforming into a health care company.
The singular focus on meeting the health care needs of the healthcare consumer or patient, or shopper for that matter, brings growth and revenue. Period.
Are you really ready to make that transformation? And I ask that question because in healthcare nothing is ever really new. I can remember from the 1990s when hospitals and health systems were throwing the words “patients as customers” around like they were M&Ms. So here we are and its 2015, still talking about customer centricity around the healthcare consumer or patient.
The healthcare enterprise can talk all it wants about treating patients as consumers. But unless it starts with the cultural transformation and a singular focus on meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer or patient, then all the technology, new hires, new clinical programs and delivery of care, is just another expensive undertaking.
The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess.