Developing a Customer Experience Culture to Enhance Patient Engagement

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With the rise of consumerism in healthcare and new payment models like value-based purchasing, hospital leaders are taking a closer look at their approach to patient — or customer — experience. In the past, hospitals did not prioritize patient experience, and if they did address it, they tended to use "one size fits all" strategies, according to Ron Wince, CEO of Guidon Performance Solutions, a hospital and healthcare efficiency firm. He says hospital leaders need to make patient experience a priority to make lasting improvements in patient engagement.

Ron Wince is CEO of Guidon Performance Solutions, a hospital and healthcare efficiency firm.Hospitals can prioritize patient experience by investing in both technology and the organizations' culture to engage patients. "The hospital systems and providers that begin to make investments in harder-to-change culture and patient experience — those organizations will be the winners in the future," Mr. Wince says.

One way to develop a customer experience culture is to recognize that different groups of patients have different needs. This recognition, combined with technology's ability to determine these specific needs, can aid hospitals in effectively engaging patients.

Moving away from "one size fits all"
While there are some universal factors that improve the patient experience — such as low noise levels, cleanliness and responsiveness to pain — there are differences in how different patient populations want to engage in their care. "You truly have to understand things from a patient segmentation perspective," Mr. Wince says. "Each segment behaves differently. You have to think seriously about examining the dynamics and how different behaviors of these different segments [of patients] drive what needs to happen within the four walls of the hospital as well as outside."

Young adult patients, who grew up with technology and are generally in good health, will interact with healthcare differently than the baby boomer population, which is aging and beginning to see deteriorating health. These two segments of the population also differ from Medicare patients, many of which have multiple chronic conditions and need long-term care. Hospitals need to understand the needs and wants of these different segments of the patient population to provide them with the right services in a way that is most likely to engage them in care. "You need to do a deeper dive into understanding the segments where you serve. Then you need to align the people, processes and technology to better serve the segments you're going to target," Mr. Wince says.

For example, he says part of the patient population may prefer a "self-serve" model where they can schedule their appointments via a mobile app or other online platform. In contrast, a different part of the population may prefer to speak with schedulers and providers over the phone or in person. Hospitals can use analytics to identify the largest referral sources, whether Twitter, Facebook, rating agencies, physicians or other sources, for each segment of the population. By understanding the differences in how patients choose their healthcare providers, hospitals can more effectively market services to patients and engage them in their care.

Patient experience training

Another way hospitals can invest in a patient experience culture is to provide physicians and staff the appropriate tools, such as training, to engage patients. "The healthcare system has been exceptional at developing technical competencies for providers of care. [The challenge] is how to change that to focus more on customer experience competencies," Mr. Wince says.

Physicians and staff can learn about patient experience and engagement through repetition of appropriate behaviors that are enforced with immediate feedback, according to Mr. Wince. For example, physicians and staff can begin to communicate with different segments of the patient population in different ways.

Using the example above, a staff member can send an appointment reminder via email or a mobile app to patients who respond better to messages in that medium, while a staff member can call to remind patients who prefer to speak with a provider. Continuing to practice these different modes of communication and learning how patients react can shape how physicians engage with different patient populations. "They will make adjustments to close the gaps in the way they interact with a patient today vs. the way they will interact with a patient in the future," Mr. Wince says.

More Articles on Customer Experience:

Taking Service Excellence From Smile Lessons to Core Strategy
Should Hospitals Treat Patients as Customers, Partners or Both?

4 Marketing Tactics to Engage Healthcare Consumers

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