Who's Improving the REAL Experience of Healthcare Customers?

by Jeannie Walters

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The healthcare industry in the United States is very focused on patient experience right now. At least, that’s what they’ll tell you.

They tell you this because after being treated for anything from a paper cut to a heart condition, the patient is likely to receive a survey. These survey results become very important to the staff, because it often impacts the way they get paid.

But healthcare is an ecosystem.

And it’s not an isolated experience. Rating the transaction of when the nice nurse treated you so well is not really rating the entire experience. And the entire experience is, for the most part, lacking much innovation. And if we agree that the actual treatment is handled well (that’s for a different post) what about just exploring the experience around that experience?

healthcare customers

Take the amount of paper healthcare customers encounter.

Walking into any doctor’s office, patients are typically greeted with a clipboard and stack of paper. This stack includes important things, like a medical history form to complete and notification of the office’s cancellation policy.

But even some of the warmest, most competent doctors around have forms that basically scream “YOU ARE ALREADY WRONG, PATIENT! YOU BETTER SHOW UP FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT! WE DON’T TRUST YOU!”

The tone is typically a mix of accusatory and vaguely apologetic. And the forms? How many crooked copies are made before someone finally thinks “we could probably just print a fresh one from the printer.” The forms themselves are often designed for…gnomes? People with incredibly small handwriting? They aren’t designed for their purpose – which is to allow room for patients to fill in the appropriate information.

That’s before the actual appointment.

Then afterwards, the patient gets to deal with amazing amounts of paperwork to appease the insurance and separate billing demigods. An ER visit is represented with separate bills from the hospital, the radiology department, the medical device unit (huh?), and the doctor. At the time, in pain or bleeding or in general discomfort, you probably forgot to ask questions like “is this doctor the most expensive guy in the hospital?”

Reams of paper are used to inform patients about helpful things like “This isn’t a bill.”

healthcare customers

Healthcare paperwork goes “Jeckyll and Hyde”

The point here is that the survey is often on lovely, easy-to-read and complete paper. It’s never a crooked, faded jumble of copied print. They care about how they present the survey to patients. Sometimes that’s where they’ve invested in technology. As the patient leaves the appointment, they are presented with a touch screen of options just as they’re feeling warm and cared for by the wonderful doctors and nurses. Great.

But it’s time to invest in the entire experience for the patient. Some larger healthcare systems are starting to catch up, and they are investing in technology to help the patient experience.

But overall?

They still aren’t getting it. Surveys about the actual care are important and that is absolutely the most critical part of any experience in the healthcare system. But imagine the power of really understanding the patient experience through their eyes. While doctors and nurses deliver great care and feel good about their survey results, those very patients they cared for are dealing with annoyances and frustrations for months before and after that care.

I hope the healthcare industry continues to invest in patient experience. But I hope they go beyond the after-care survey.

Image credits: Apreche, poppet with a camera via Creative Commons license

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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