Patient Experience Initiatives In Healthcare: Part I
I believe most if not all healthcare providers go into the healthcare industry because they truly care about helping people. Knowing this, I often wonder then why is it so hard for our industry of highly skilled and caring professionals that want to make a difference struggle so much with delivering an outstanding patient experience?
The Patient Experience
A few months back I was searching online about patient experience in healthcare to see what the “experts” say and what I found was quite interesting. There are hundreds if not thousands of blogs, tweets, research articles, and training opportunities online about improving “the patient experience” for healthcare providers and leaders. I also noticed within this plethora of information a resounding message that the United States healthcare system and providers alike are missing the boat when it comes to providing the “gold standard” of the patient experience.
So it begs the question of why is healthcare in such dire need to improve the patient service experiences? What is so different about this industry that we haven’t yet figured out this thing called customer service? Well it’s complicated, maybe…
The uniqueness of the healthcare industry is that patients who seek services don’t really want the services but it is critically important to receive them. It’s not like choosing which restaurant you want to go to or what clothing store suits your style for the party you have coming up this weekend; no, healthcare services are about improving quality of life. That’s kind of a big deal.
So why can’t we get it right? Well there are numerous factors such as accessibility, payment policies, regulations, increasing administrative controls and responsibilities, lack of communication and IT infrastructures between providers and systems, and what I believe to be the most important is our industry not truly understanding what our patients see as value based care.
Clinical care, patient experience, and patient to provider engagement are key components of the patient experience. In other words, great customer services means systems and smiles. There has to be proper systems in place, employee training on expectations, and every single employee needing to know how to handle customer complaints and concerns when they arise; however too often regulations, policies, and productivity expectations interfere with the value of the patient experience.
So then what is the definition of patient experience? Well I am no expert in this area, but from my standpoint as CEO/COO at OSI Physical Therapy, we see the patient experience value as:
Value comes from convenience which is the ability of the consumer to be able to go to their local healthcare provider to seek care; access correlates to the ability to see whichever healthcare provider the consumer chooses is best for him/her or family members; outcomes is in relation to getting the patient better for a better quality of life; and patient satisfaction has multiple factors including friendliness, cleanliness, timeliness, quality care, etc.
The good news about healthcare reform today is that healthcare providers are required to assess and implement standards of patient experience that are measurable. According to Healthcare Leaders Media, healthcare systems are required to publically report healthcare performance metrics that will be or are (depending on industry regulations in existence today) linking reimbursement to performance scores.
The unfortunate part about this is according to Health Leaders Media at www.healthleadersmedia.com/intellegence “only 30% [healthcare leaders] expect to focus on instituting a systemto learn patient needs as an area for new or increased emphasis over the next three years.” I found this very interesting and disturbing that only 30% of healthcare leaders have a plan in place to focus in on learning more about the patient experience and how their organization can improve.
I believe leaders should have a better understanding of what the patient experience means to our consumers. By learning this, we can then begin to better assess what barriers exist today that need to be changed so providers can do their job and in turn provide the “gold standard” of patient experience. I encourage healthcare providers and consumers alike to continue to challenge our healthcare industry and the government in seeking for ways to improve how we deliver care.