Three Ideas to Re-Humanize Patient Experience

I was recently interviewed for an article that discusses a post where Fox News journalist John Stossel describes his experience as a lung cancer patient at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

First of all, I hope that Stossel’s treatment is successful. And although I don’t fully agree with his analysis of the industry, I do agree with his observation “…I have to say, the hospital’s customer service stinks.” Yes, there is a problem with patient experience.

I’m reminded of this picture from a post that I wrote in 2009, which comes from Cleveland Clinic’s 2008 Annual Report.

ClevelandClinicAnnualReport

With all of the focus on costs and liabilities, the medical system has forgotten about the soul of the patient. It’s become dehumanized.

The wellbeing of a patient often takes a back seat to rigid processes and procedures, and there’s little understanding of how to help patients make increasingly important financial/medical trade-offs. It’s not that doctors, nurses, and hospital staffs don’t care. It’s just that the entire system has conspired to de-emphasize humanity.

This problem is not unique to healthcare. In research that we did in 2013, we found that only 30% of employees have what Aristotle called “practical wisdom,” the combination of moral will and moral skill. This is the capability that Barry Schwartz explains is critical for infusing humanity within organizations.

While there are many structural issues in U.S. healthcare (which I won’t go into here), there are still many things that can be done to re-humanize the patient experience. Here are some ideas:

  • Apply better experience design. Health care leaders should learn and apply the the principles of People-Centric Experience Design: align with purpose, guide with empathy, and design for memories.
  • Develop a value mindset. As patients take on more of the direct financial burden for healthcare, doctors must do more than recommend treatments and procedures. They must help patients understand the value of those activities, so that they can make smart financial/medical trade-offs.
  • Build decision-support technology. Patients should be able to understand the efficacy and full costs of the treatments and procedures that they are being asked to “purchase.” Health plans need to take the lead in providing tools for making this information transparent, and empowering patients to make better decisions.

The bottom line: It’s time to re-humanize healthcare

 

Join Me in Making 2014 the Year of Empathy

As you may have read in my customer experience trends for 2014, I’ve labelled 2014 as “The Year of Empathy.” Hopefully many, many people will embrace the concept of empathy within their organizations and not just treat it as the word du jour. To help in the effort, I’m going to make empathy an ongoing theme in this blog.

Here’s my challenge to everyone reading this post: Join me and the entire Temkin Group team in making empathy come to life within your organizations. As a start, watch and share this video by the Cleveland Clinic: Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care.

The bottom line: If you could stand in someone else’s shoes would you treat them differently?

Health Care Needs More Empathy

The US healthcare system needs a major makeover. Costs are skyrocketing, institutions aren’t geared for chronic care, and customer experiences aren’t very good. But there’s some hope.

Retailers and medical providers are applying retail strategies to health care. After closing a majority of its walk-in clinics, Wal-Mart is rebuilding the business through partnerships with hospitals, Cleveland Clinic is working with CVS drugstore clinics, and the Mayo Clinic operating a couple of Express Care clinics. These retail locations aim to increase the convenience and decrease the costs of some health care interactions.

In Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, I led a panel of customer experience executives that included the Chief Experience Officers from both CIGNA (Ingrid Lindberg) and the Cleveland Clinic (M. Bridget Duffy, MD). It was great to see such dynamic executives leading customer experience transformations inside of these institutions.

Lindberg’s team found that the language used by the large insurer (which is common across the industry) was a huge barrier for individual consumers. So they created a list of words and acronyms not to use with members. By simply changing the words they saw a 156% increase in understanding. The visibility of customer experience at CIGNA has been raised to the point that it’s a monthly topic for the senior executive team.

The customer/patient experience effort at the Cleveland Clinic can be seen in the first few pages of it’s 2008 Annual Report:

ClevelandClinicAnnualReport

This quote shows Cleveland Clinic’s commitment to more than medical outcomes. Duffy explained how each of the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic gets a scorecard at the end of the year with volume metrics and quality and safety metrics. The scorecard now includes patient satisfaction and loyalty scores.

The bottom line: Health care needs more leaders like Lindberg and Duffy

Editorial note: Bridget Duffy left the Cleveland Clinic.

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