- By Sherril Hanson
- May 25, 2023
The field of experience management covers not just customer and employee experience, but other categories that are not quite the same as being labeled a “customer” or “consumer,” such as patient experience and student experience.
I recently interviewed Dr. Adrienne Boissy, Chief Medical Officer of Qualtrics, and discussed the nuances of experience management in healthcare and the importance of deeply understanding patients to enable a more personalized patient journey. Dr. Boissy is a staff neurologist and the former Chief Experience Officer of the Cleveland Clinic Health System, bringing deep industry experience to the topic.
Patients Differ from Consumers
“There is a really different lens that we have to use when we consider the healthcare experience, and a patient differs from a consumer in key ways,” says Boissy.
Patients do not have the same “rights” that typical consumers have, meaning they sometimes do not have a choice in where they go either because it is an emergency situation, or they are driven by insurance coverage. Additionally, patients may not know the upfront cost of the services they are receiving. Boissy equated it to going to a grocery store with no price tags.
“Patients also have vulnerability and fear, sometimes for their very life, and at times may not have the capacity to make decisions for themselves. Again, very different from your normal trip to a store or buying a product online,” says Boissy.
Value is also looked at differently than in other industries. Many companies are focused on revenue growth and creating value for customers so that they are repeat purchasers.
“In healthcare, no one wants a repeat visit to an emergency room. Value needs to be centered around delivering quality, safety, outcomes, and positive experiences,” says Boissy.
Patient Surveying Versus Experience Management
Boissy shares that when patient experience is discussed, many still view it as strictly surveying, when it is so much broader.
“With good intentions, researchers and experts came up with regulated surveys to look at inpatient and outpatient settings. Hospitals are reimbursed as part of their value-based purchasing programs with CMS, depending on how they performed on survey,” says Boissy. “But the surveys, many of which are still paper, are often 45 questions or more, and don’t cover topics that are really important to patients such as ‘how did the experience make me feel’? Was I safe? Was I included as part of the care team? Was my voice heard as decisions were made about my care?’” Additionally, survey return rates are notoriously low and often not inclusive across demographics.
I shared with Boissy a recent personal experience of heading to an emergency room in a smaller hospital in the mountains. My family’s experience went relatively smoothly. Weeks later I received a paper survey. I did not know it was a survey, and it sat in a pile unopened as I assumed it was a bill, and did not quite want to lay eyes on it yet. When I finally got around to opening it, the survey was very operationally focused, asked little about how I personally felt about the experience and left no opportunity to share some of the positives that did not neatly fit in the question set they gave me. When I finally sent it back, it was likely a month or more since my actual visit, and I wondered who would be tallying up the responses. Boissy confirmed this is a fairly typical experience, and the lack of staff with the time and experience needed to work with the data coming in is also a challenge.
“Patient experience, which should be associated with patient-centered care, has become tied to scoring. We are in a reckoning because if we are going to define ourselves by regulated surveys, and that’s our bar – we must take off the rose-colored glasses about what that delivers and what it doesn’t,” says Boissy. “Organizations are deciding on whether they want to deliver a patient experience of the future or of just what is required today.”
The broader idea of listening across the experience is where experience management (XM) platforms come into play. The Qualtrics XM Platform allows for data capture not just from surveys, but from all the other data sources generated by a particular person. This includes unstructured data, such as phone calls, chats, and other interactions a patient may have had, or information from prior visits. Ultimately, the collection of this data can result in deeper personalization for a patient, and a feeling of being known in a circumstance that can often feel impersonal.
Analytics for Insights and Deep Understanding
“When I first came on board at Qualtrics and was digging into the analytics, as a practitioner, it really resonated with me because there was real rigor put into measuring emotions. It’s not just a color coding of happy/sad but a quantitative measurement of emotional intensity and the effort they are putting forward. And it can provide context. This matters so much in emotional situations. When a patient is calling, are they simply trying to get an appointment for a routine visit, or is it their 18th call to try to set up chemotherapy?” says Boissy. “The other thing that excited me was the action piece,which is really the underpinning of any great experience. The solution integrates with 100+ other systems, allowing for workflows to trigger and action to take place.”
Benefits also extend to staff. Healthcare is facing a staffing crisis and financial constraints, all with the same expectation of value, safety, and positive experience. Staff are struggling with burnout. Engaging with staff, allowing them to feel listened to and removing problems in their way, can result in fewer staff departures, which is a costly problem.
Patient experience may still be one of the more immature pieces of the experience ecosystem, but as patients’ expectations to be treated more like a consumer rise, and there are more care options to choose from, it is worthwhile for healthcare executives such as CXOs, COOs and CFOs to take a look at the broader idea of listening and personalization.
One way that patient experience is similar to all the other “X” segments is that the investment must be worthwhile. Like every other software investment, ROI must be demonstrated. Less staff turnover, better efficiency, and quality in operations at call centers and billing, consolidating the feedback and listening tech stack, and the capability to address problems that could potentially turn into costly issues, are all established return on investment outcomes that could justify shifting to experience management from experience measurement.
Related Article: The Permanente Medical Group Combines Technology and Strong Company Culture to Support Patient Experience
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