Sunday, April 19, 2015

A neutral rating of satisfaction at best for hospitals from consumers?

To improve satisfaction the hospital needs to focus on these four areas- the employees and culture,  experience, engagement and value.  Anything less and one is wasting time, money and human resources.

By now nearly everyone has read or heard the accounts of the CMS launch of the 5 star rating on hospitals based on the HCAHPS scores for consumers.  So as to not to recap, what follows are a couple of links for the reader. One is from Healthcare Finance News  251 hospitals earn 5 stars, 101 earn 1 star, in new CMS Hospital Compare rankings (full list)Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services assigns ratings to more than 3,500 hospitals. The other is the link to the CNS website that a consumer would use, Hospital Compare.

What does it all mean from a marketing perspective?

Well, it’s not good and here is why.

The rating scale is five stars with one star being the lowest and  five stars being the best.  A three score is a neutral rating, meaning it’s neither good nor bad, just there. And for a hospital or health system brand that is the kiss of death.  No brand loyalty here and if the opportunity presents itself for the healthcare consumer to switch providers, they will.

With millions of dollars poured into new facilities and amenities like private rooms, on demand dinning, HD TVs, wireless networks, etc., hospitals and health systems thought that they could increase satisfaction levels by focusing on the hotel services.

What was forgotten is the healthcare consumer is paying attention, and they looked right past all of that and into the experience. And the experience doesn't match the claims in the marketing campaigns.  I especially like the "it’s all about you messages" then the hospital is rated a three.

It’s time for hospitals and associations to stop whining.

There are issues in some regards to the ratings, sample sizes and high satisfaction levels do not necessarily translate into higher quality care. We all get that. But even so, the general tone of the response in the stories in the major news outlets makes the associations, hospitals and health systems look like whiners, with hospitals talking about all that is wrong with the rating.  That’s right I said whining.  And living in the Chicago-land area there are a bevy of independent hospital and system hospitals that are average at best.

But the fact remains, the ratings are here and are here to stay, so get over it.

Hospitals are already being seen as the bad guy now, and this only reinforces that I really don’t care messages that those types of comments create in the mind of the healthcare consumer.

What to do?

I will keep this simple for the hospitals and health systems, satisfaction is no great mystery.  There are four things to focus:

1. Employees and culture
A hospital or health system will never have highly satisfied patients or healthcare consumers if the employees are not happy and love what they do. If the culture doesn’t support a healthcare consumer or patient focus then that message comes through loud and clear via the employees. And stating that you are customer focused or patent focused does not make it so. See “What does a customer focused hospital or healthcare enterprise look like?”,  at to learn how.

2. Healthcare consumer & patient engagement
It’s a complicated world out there for the patient and healthcare consumer, so engagement is critical to success.  That is engagement at a very personal level and focus.  Remember that an individual is only a patient one-third of the time that encounters the hospital or health system.  The other two-thirds of the time they are a healthcare consumer. Engagement should be viewed as the opportunity to create, engage, foster and nourish an enduring relationship with those individuals and families.  See “Is healthcare consumer and patient engagement all of the time the new reality?”,  at for tips and strategies to accomplish engagement.

3. Experience
There are over 145 different touch-points along eight dimensions of interaction, that a healthcare consumer and patient are exposed too that defines the experience. That is an awful lot of information used consciously and subconsciously by a healthcare consumer or patient.  The strategy and process that a healthcare provider must use, needs to be multiple in scopes, parallel to other efforts and integrated across multiple channels and touch-points in its approach.  For more information in this topic read “The healthcare consumer lives in a multi-channel environment; the response is? “, at

4. Value
In today's world, it's about value, benefit, price and convenience to the healthcare consumer. It's about the answering the healthcare consumer’s question of what is my ROI for using you?  Does the level of experience and engagement equal the price paid.  If not the experience and engagement will most likely be subpar as well.  Here comes the three rating again.  This one really has an impact on marketing and sets the stage for the engagement and experience.  In “How is healthcare consumerism changing provider marketing?”,  at  addresses why value is very important in today healthcare world.

This is not easy by any means.   These four areas touch every aspect of the hospital and health system.  And the sooner one learns to integrate and focus on the needs of the health care consumer and patient, not the hospital or health system, the sooner the ratings will improve.

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