10 Big Ideas to Move Patient Experience From Good to Great

patient satisfactionHealthcare delivery in the United States continues to transform itself from provider-centric care to a patient-centered environment with a key goal of excellence in patient experience.

Medical offices and hospitals have made significant inroads in recognizing the vital importance of “the customer.” They recognize the benefits of delivering a positive patient experience, but making breakthrough progress—and moving from good to great—remains a challenge for many.

Delivering a positive patient experience is the product of executive and staff leadership, a well-considered system, an infused culture, regular measure of performance, and a dozen factors. Here’s our list of successful concepts that help leaders move the sum of patient experience from good to great.

Three Universal Drivers…

Because patients are increasingly embracing the retail definition of an empowered customer, our list begins with three universal drivers of quality in customer experience (CX), according to internationally recognized Forrester Research. They advise that these factors matter in every industry.

1. Make customers feel valued. Patients are not a chart, a transaction or an interruption. They are the reason for your work.

2. Resolve customer problems or issues quickly. Resolving any difficulty demonstrates care, removes stumbling blocks and recognizes the importance of the patient’s voice in their care.

3. Talk to customers in plain language. In addition to avoiding medical terms and jargon, this idea is about assuring clear communications and mutual understanding. It takes practice.

Embrace policy in culture…

4. Empower staff with experience policy, training and real-world guidelines. Perhaps as little as one-third of the time required for a typical medical appointment is between patient and provider. (Often less.) Most of the total time required—including pre and post treatment—involves others in the office. Use your own words to make key ideas like these personal, meaningful and useful…and add to the following list:

    • Patients are never an interruption. They are the reason for your work.
    • You don’t need permission from a boss to make a customer feel valued, appreciated or welcome.
    • Don’t waste the energy sharing negative feelings or attitudes with coworkers or, especially, with patients.
    • Smile. Stand up. Do whatever it takes to completely embrace a positive and helpful spirit…on the phone and in person.
    • Regard patient satisfaction as if your job depends on it. Ultimately, it does.

5. Patient Experience is a personal, not universal, scorecard. “There is not a patient or a consumer in the US who can tell you the HCHAPS score of their provider,” observes blogger/consultant Paul Roemer. “[Patients] have their own experiences, and they have their own expectations of what those experiences should be. To be blunt, an individual does not care about how great everyone else’s experiences were. A person cares about how great their experience will be.”

The HCHAPS is a ultimately useful as a retrospective view. But meaningful patient experience and satisfaction occurs in real time, and not as a homogenized, group scoreboard. Policies, procedures and direction are only meaningful when they truly guide highly personal, individual and human encounters.

Design for the needs of the individual…

Patient Experience research from the UK National Health Service affirms the fact that there is no “one size fits all” approach. Successful healthcare organizations embrace What Matters to Patients research in organizational vision, strategy and service improvement work. They:

6. See the patient experience as of equal importance as clinical quality and patient safety.

7. Dedicate resources to capture, understand and use patient experience, through storytelling and numerical data.

8. Demonstrate leadership and organizational commitment to understanding patient experience to improve services and co-designing improvements with patients as partners.

The full patient experience continuum…

9. Consider the patient’s entire path from beginning to end. Effectively managing the experience considers the entirety of contact, from initial, even casual, contact (often beginning with the patient’s online research), through the in-office encounters, treatment course, and through post-visit care and follow-up. Take the long view; there is no convenient, single touch point.

10. Top-down programs succeed. Perhaps the most critically important success factor for any practice patient experience effort is in being a top management mandate. The endorsement, encouragement and resources that flow from the highest levels of management will ultimately make the difference between true organizational success and mediocre patient satisfaction programs.

What are you or your organization doing that makes the difference between good and great patient experience? What advice can you provide others? What would you add to this list?

Lonnie Hirsch

About Lonnie Hirsch

Co-Founder of Healthcare Success Strategies, Lonnie has consulted for over 2,000 health care clients during his 20-year career. Lonnie writes for many healthcare publications, and also has spoken at hundreds of venues nationally. His topics include patient experience, customer service, marketing, branding and business development.

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