Designing the Patient Experience: Getting to the Next-Level

Heinz Product VS User Experience smallThe Heinz ketchup image—designing the product vs. designing the experience—can be seen as an excellent visual metaphor about efforts to enhance and improve the patient experience.

During the past few years, “patient satisfaction,” “patient-centered care,” and “patient experience” have evolved from vaguely defined catch phrases to proactive, top-down hospital initiatives.

Industry wide, hospitals and health systems are increasingly mindful of clinical quality, patient safety, as well as working to improve HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores in key categories of communications, noise/noise reduction, medication information, cleanliness, responsiveness and pain management.

What’s more, many institutions have pushed beyond the initial achievements in search of additional ways to monitor, measure and improve experience factors, patient attitudes and perceptions of care. In addition to survey forms, many hospitals look to patient advisory councils as a tool to discover the experience that patients really want.

Patient experience is also a concern in other countries. England’s National Health Service (NHS) is greatly expanding its Friends and Family Test (FFT) so that every patient has the opportunity to provide feedback and to enable the public to make informed healthcare choices. During the coming months and into 2015, the FFT will be introduced to “millions of patients across thousands of providers of NHS funded services including GP and dental practices, ambulance, mental health and community services, as well as outpatients.”

Although the NHS is significantly different from American healthcare, an important objective of both systems is to draw on a wide and inclusive base for feedback, ideas and areas of improvement. In an illustration of shattering tradition, Nemours Children’s Health System listened to “the voice of the customer” and instituted prompt appointments and unconventional office hours.

Complex challenges ahead…

Early solutions to any problem offer low-hanging fruit. It’s relatively easy to reduce noise. It’s more difficult to dismiss traditional 9 to 5 hours in favor of same-day or weekend appointments. And still more challenges are the questions and issues that forward-thinking hospitals are trying to unravel for further patient experience improvements. Among the important experiential questions and issues that are being discussed are:

  • Can the patient and/or the institution only imagine variations of the current system, or is there a better way?
  • How are measures of experience different from patient attitudes?
  • How do expectations of care and measures of satisfaction differ among generations and demographic groups?
  • Is the patient a passive recipient of the experience or an integral participant in innovation and design?
  • Is there a mismatch between what is currently measured and what matters most to patients?
  • What are the key factors that shape a patient’s expectations, and how can they be influenced?
  • Are insightful questions—beyond likes and dislikes—being asked?

What are the tough questions that you are facing in designing a superior patient experience and taking it to the next level? Are you redesigning the product or the experience?

Kathy Gaughran


About Kathy Roy Gaughran

Senior Marketing Strategist Kathy Roy Gaughran [] has helped thousands of clients throughout North America achieve their growth goals. An award-winning strategic marketing planner, Kathy is an accomplished writer and speaker, frequently presenting to national, local and state professional associations.


One Response to Designing the Patient Experience: Getting to the Next-Level

  1. Bill Piecuch August 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Kathy –

    Your organization is tops in the health care industry. I have an eye care client in Tennessee – about 80 miles from Knoxville. The business is located at Fairfield Glade. It’s not a village or any kind of municipality, it’s deemed a “resort.”

    The eye care place is a big deal, though. They are expanding and I’m in the mix with marketing communications.

    Anything to share on that type of business?

    You are doing a heck of a job and I appreciate your on-gong advice.

    Best regards,

    Bill Piecuch

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