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Healthcare: 2018 is the Year to Focus on the Customer Experience

This is the last post for the 2017 year. So, I thought it might be fitting to highlight the most important topic for healthcare in 2018: the consumer experience.

The proliferation of high deductible health plans has finally made the patient an active consumer. Here are my anecdotal sources of information:

  • My 80-year-old father shopped his prescription plan this past year. As a result, he is saving hundreds of dollars from previous years, thanks to Geisinger.
  • My oldest daughter researched costs before heading in for a routine procedure.
  • My wife held off on a procedure after speaking with a friend about an alternative remedy.

Small sample size, I know, but the data does indicate a change in the way people are shopping for healthcare.

Some will read this and say, of course. Others will read this and say that there is no consumer in healthcare – only patients. I’ve had both conversations over the past year.

Adapting to the Shift

My only point is that the behavior of the person buying healthcare services has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. In fact, my primary point is to get ready because 2018 will be known as the year of the healthcare consumer.

This represents the single biggest risk and opportunity for healthcare providers in the near future. Are you ready?

Now, it’s not like we didn’t know this was coming. Below is a graphic we developed and have refined over the years. When I first shared this, I remember the most common response was that the timelines were too aggressive. Many believed that naming 2018 for a consumer-driven healthcare model was unrealistic.

I am now convinced that the timeline is spot-on. The technology and economics of the industry are in alignment.  This is the year that consumer-driven healthcare takes hold.

consumer experience

If you agree, the natural next question is, “What will determine the winners and losers?”

The key for 2018 is demonstrating an ability to orchestrate experiences. That is, to identify, design, execute, and measure the right experiences, which increase a health system’s relevance in the consumer’s life.

Identifying Experiences

My most recent post, High-Tech and High-Touch: A Perfect Strategy Blend for Healthcare, highlighted the need to get to know the customer.  There is no substitute for this step. Get the data, analyze the data, and, for heaven’s sake, talk to the consumer about what they want from their health system.

They will tell you exactly what they are looking for.

Many health systems are starting to develop customer journeys. There is some variability in what these look like, but what they have in common is that they map out key experiences along the interaction between the provider and the consumer. Many identify the technology and processes that will support the journey, and some measures that indicate our effectiveness at that point in the journey.

Customer journeys are distinct for each person, but generally, they are lumped together by personas. The expectant mother, the young invincible, or the aging senior are all examples of personas that could be used.

Each represents a set of expectations upon which the health system needs to deliver. Each also has a set of experiences and outcomes that the health system should strive to deliver.

Here is a simple and common framework for looking at the consumer’s journey in healthcare.

Know Me

The patient thinks, “I’ve told you so much about me already; now please demonstrate that you know me.”

This is a fundamental human desire. Know me. To remember someone’s name, their condition, and anything about their family or life is comforting and demonstrates both empathy and care.

Ritz Carlton has a system between their valet and the front desk that demonstrates this so well. They understand this concept. Their valet will greet you and they have no idea who you are. They ask your name as they are taking your keys and directing you to the check-in.

Between the moment you tell them your name and when you arrive in the lobby, they will radio ahead with your information. When you walk up to the front desk, someone you probably have never met before says, “Mr. Russell, welcome to the Ritz Carlton. I see that you will be staying with us for a few days.”

Compare that with most hotels, and you will have an idea of the distinction between orchestrating an experience that communicates you care, and moving the transaction along by checking someone into the hotel. Small things communicate care and empathy.

People want for you to remember who they are and engage with them as a person. Use my name and stop asking me the same questions over and over again.

Guide Me

What is the next step in my health journey?

The consumer is looking for direction, and the system that does this well will have a customer for life. Navigating healthcare is hard. If you become the guide, the consumer will love you.

This is the most powerful aspect of the CVS/Aetna merger. They may still screw this up at the operational level, but look at the possibility. If you can go into a CVS and they have care navigators that take the time to understand your insurance, your choices, and educate you on your options, they will take control of many health decisions.

People are clamoring for this type of help. CVS could become the largest referral network in the world. Again, there is a long distance between vision and implementation, but the possibility is interesting.

Empower Me

Acknowledge my role in my health and give me the tools I need to realize my goals.

Shared accountability in healthcare is something I hear from both the clinicians and the patients. Well, I collect step data, step on a scale daily, and even take my blood pressure twice a week. Instead of telling me you don’t want the data, how about telling me the data you do want and allow me to be a part of the process?

Stay With Me

Transitions within healthcare are difficult. Figure out how to do hand-offs well.

Make hand-offs transparent to the consumer. The consumer doesn’t care that the specialist is on a different EHR than the hospital; figure out a way to get the information to the specialist.

Figure out a way to be with me between my visits. That way, I can have peace of mind that I’m still under your care, even when I’m at my home or visiting my grandchildren. I want to know that someone is looking at my data and that care is a click away if I need it.

Support Me

Design your tools with me in mind. Use my thinking, and ask me what I need. Then, give me what I need to live a healthy life or recover more quickly.

Please stop making portals that don’t help me on my care journey. I need a scale, a blood pressure cuff, and a way to keep track of my meds.  If you had a home hub that would collect information from my devices and place them in the medical record, that might be nice. I’m not a doctor, but I would think that a daily trend of my weight is more insightful than a monthly (or even annual) reading.

Make it Easy

Simple, efficient, accessible, convenient. These should be design principles for every health system.

People hate difficult. Consumers avoid “difficult.” If your healthcare system is difficult, they will avoid you.

If you hear the word complex, that is your opportunity. Simplify it from the consumer’s perspective. It can still be difficult on the back end… just make it simple to the consumer.

If you are wondering, Care for Me is assumed to be at the highest level of quality. Quality is considered to be a point of parity, not a differentiator. Deliver poor quality care and nothing else matters. It is, after all, the core product of a healthcare provider.

This post is a little long, but I figured you had more time to read over the holidays. Hope this helps. As always, you can follow me @thePatientsCIO or LinkedIn, or email me directly at [email protected].