Healthcare experience matters — here’s how to improve it

By | 4 minute read | March 14, 2019

When I ask any clinician for an opinion on a brand that gives customers a great experience, the answer is never a health care or life sciences brand. It’s always a brand such as Amazon, Netflix, Uber, Nordstrom or Starbucks — and for good reason. The organizations underpinning these brands manage their whole strategy or approach around creating a people-centric experience and measuring performance against their values. These successful customer-centered companies put mechanisms and technology in place to ensure they deliver on their brand promise.

The Health Care and Life Sciences (HCLS) industry is bound by regulation — processes are critically important, particularly when safety is concerned. But let’s assume all these requirements are met. Couldn’t the health care experience be better if it were built from the outset to be exceptional for the patient or member? This begs a second, even more central question: How do you create a HCLS organization rooted in patient centricity?

Turning the Model on Its Head

It’s reasonable to assert that today’s patient experience is derived from a set of processes. Not unlike airline passengers forced to jump through hoops to get through security, health care consumers journey through a system not optimized for them.

Let’s take the analogy further. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) prioritizes process over people, and most of us have become numb to an array of procedures that seem designed to elicit frustration and headaches. Whether it’s showing the same documents to your airline repeatedly or being expected to navigate between a head-spinning array of lines to get through TSA security, the result is a confusing and anxiety-inducing experience.

Doesn’t the current patient experience in HCLS bear some resemblances to the TSA model — perhaps more than we would care to admit? Today’s patient experience is derived from a set of processes — and like TSA clearance, the experience is the outcome, not the goal. Health care consumers journey through a system not optimized for them — perhaps because in HCLS, no one person or function owns patients’ end-to-end experience.

Owning the Patient Experience

It’s a lofty vision to pivot away from today’s HCLS model — given complex care-pathway protocols and volumes of clinical trials — but by continually asking ourselves a question of whether we’re enforcing policy and protocol specifically with regards to the effect on the end user, we can get to deliver patient-centered experience that produces exceptional outcomes.

The benefit is not only to the patient, but the business as well. Research from Forrester shows placing end users at the center of the design process can slash time to market by as much as 50 percent and generate ROI as high as 301 percent.

If you’re a forward-thinking HCLS leader, embracing this patient-centered strategy can differentiate your organization with patients, thereby accelerating positive business outcomes.

Making Patient Centricity a Reality

In today’s world, the last best experience a consumer had anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere. The bar is always rising, and if experience doesn’t meet that bar, people act with their feet.

The path varies from organization to organization, but here are three principles you can start putting in place to get the shift to patient centricity underway:

  1. Designate someone in the organization — a chief marketing officer, chief patient officer or chief experience officer — to represent and safeguard the patient voice. Elevating ownership of the patient will help ensure the optimal experience is appropriately defined and consistently delivered across all touch points.
  2. Define the experience you want your patients to have and what makes it unique to your organization. It may seem old-school, but journey mapping is a valuable tool to help you pinpoint the various use cases your organization needs to consider and what outcomes you want to achieve at each stage in the customer journey. Then, in conjunction with data-driven insights, you can keep improving on the experience.
  3. Break down the transformation into manageable pieces — there’s no point trying to boil the ocean. Use your journey mapping exercise and data to help you identify currently lagging areas where you can make quick wins. This might include putting together teams using agile methodology to work toward improving the UX of appointment booking or billing, for example.

This transition represents a tectonic shift, to be sure, but if you’re clear and goal-oriented from the outset, it’s achievable. Take the time to answer the question: What experience do we want patients to have? From there, it’s a matter of taking intentional steps to deliver against that ideal, ensuring that every process and technology available supports your vision.

Go deeper: Listen to Paul Stoddart and Arielle Trzcinski, Senior Analyst, Forrester, talk about customer-patient experiences and their evolution in healthcare.

To learn more about solutions that can help guide HCLS companies through this business transformation, visit Experience Design Services from IBM.