In many important ways, healthcare organizations and consumer businesses are fundamentally different. And yet, there is no question that today’s patients bring a distinctly consumer mindset to their healthcare experiences. That means patients are better informed about their healthcare choices. They have easier access to information and reviews about providers and facilities. And they are much more willing to walk away from providers that can’t deliver both quality care and good overall experiences.
This dynamic raises an intriguing question: If patients are increasingly bringing consumer expectations to their healthcare experiences, what (if anything) can the healthcare industry learn from leading consumer companies about improving those experiences?
The answer, as it turns out, has important implications. A growing number of healthcare providers are discovering new solutions to long-entrenched challenges and limitations by exploring, adapting, and applying proven customer experience (CX) best practices to their patient experience (PX) efforts. There are many examples, but to begin the conversation, here are six proven and broadly accepted CX best practices that are especially relevant and useful for healthcare organizations looking to breathe new life into their patient experience programs.
Best Practice #1: Build a Winning Patient Experience Strategy
Today, 90% of healthcare organizations say improving patient experiences is a high priority. But only 8% of those organizations have managed to put a successful patient experience strategy in place.  This huge gap highlights the challenges of actually creating a balanced and complete patient experience strategy that defines who your patients are, clearly outlines what kinds of experiences you want to provide, and describes how you want patients to feel after they receive care from your organization.
There are obviously no easy, one-size-fits-all prescriptions for developing a strong, effective PX strategy, but there are some core ideas from the consumer world that can help guide your efforts:
- Create a more patient centric culture. Cultural changes are never easy. But many leading consumer organizations have proved that with consistent, ongoing effort, you can successfully define what “patient centricity” means to your organization, communicate that definition and get buy-in across every level of the organization, and ultimately shift your core culture to focus more on delivering complete, world-class patient experiences.
- Align your patient experience strategy with your core brand and business strategies. The world’s best consumer businesses understand that a successful CX strategy has to be closely connected to and aligned with the organization’s brand and business strategies. The same is true in the healthcare world. With the proper alignment in place, you can make clear promises about what patients should expect from your organization (brand strategy), consistently deliver on those promises (PX strategy), and then connect those experiences back to your organization’s overall goals (business strategy).
- Find and engage with a dedicated customer experience executive. Getting organizational buy-in for patient experience improvements that impact multiple departments always requires strong leadership from the top. Smart consumer businesses often assign a dedicated executive to provide the leadership, influence, and continuity needed to develop and execute on a successful CX strategy. The same approach will help drive the success of your PX program.
Building and implementing a successful patient experience strategy takes time and a lot of persistent effort. But with the right strategy in place, you’ll reach a point where all the people, data, technology and processes you put in place start to yield results that are clear to everyone—from employees who are now empowered to deliver better experiences to patients who experience the results first hand.
Best Practice #2: View Your Patients’ Experiences Through Multiple Lenses
Many healthcare organizations depend on standardized survey programs as their main (or only) source of patient experience data. But the best consumer organizations have learned that meaningful improvement comes from collecting information from the widest possible range of sources along every step of the customer journey. For healthcare organizations, this involves combining and complementing standardized surveys with more targeted and personalized information gathering tools. It also includes finding ways to unify and tap into all of the incredibly rich sources of patient information that exist in your point-of-care, safety and quality, operations, and other healthcare systems. Surveys ask patients to look back at their experiences after they’re over, but these other tools often measure reactions and responses in real time at specific points. They also make it possible to incorporate and share (with permission) the perspectives and experiences of family members who are involved in caring for their loved ones.
Of course, this “multiple lens” approach requires a technology platform that’s capable of normalizing all these different sources of data, analyzing them, and converting them into cohesive and useful patient experience insights. But when this platform is in place and working properly—and all of your different patient systems are connected to it—you gain an incredibly rich and unified view of the complete patient journey.
Best Practice #3: Use Predictive Analytics to Prioritize Your PX Efforts
In addition to combining and analyzing customer experience data from different sources, smart consumer organizations leverage advanced predictive analytics to accurately identify what matters most to their customers and pinpoint what types of CX changes will have the biggest positive impact.
By adding this additional intelligence to your patient experience technology platform, you gain the confidence of knowing that your efforts are making the largest possible contribution to increased loyalty and improved patient experiences.
Best Practice #4: Empower Employees to Make Smarter, Faster Decisions
For consumer businesses, survival often depends on making smart decisions faster than the competition. In the CX realm, this typically takes the form of dashboards and reports that quickly synthesize multiple performance measures and data sources into clear, simple, and actionable insights—and then makes them available to everyone who needs them in nearly real time.
In most cases, healthcare organizations have been much slower to adopt these types of dynamic, customizable tools. But a technology platform that combines and unifies different sources of patient data also lays the groundwork for the types of near-real-time dashboards that can drive smart, informed, and relevant patient experience decisions across every layer of your organization.
Best Practice #5: Take Advantage of the Net Promoter Score
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) uses a single, standard question to measure how likely a customer is to recommend a product, service, or brand, and it has been nearly universally adopted by companies in the consumer world. NPS serves a uniquely valuable purpose, because it uses a single numeric score to consistently measure satisfaction and brand loyalty across nearly every market and industry.
Today, the healthcare industry rarely uses NPS, but it presents an interesting opportunity for forward-looking healthcare organizations. By adding NPS to your patient experience program, you can gain a perspective that goes beyond the healthcare industry—and measures your performance against the larger consumer landscape. This becomes especially valuable as patients increasingly bring consumer expectations to their healthcare experiences. Of course, with NPS—as with any other metric—it’s important to focus on meaningful action and improvement, rather than simply “chasing the score.”
Best Practice #6: Focus on Actions and Results
Nearly every consumer organization collects customer experience data and documents the results. But the true CX leaders also know how to translate those efforts into meaningful, systematic changes and improvements, and they know how to do it quickly. This is an especially relevant area for healthcare organizations, because there is a strong tendency to focus more on collecting patient experience data than actually driving and managing change.
That’s not surprising. Gathering survey data, generating reports, and documenting scores are focused, self-contained activities that fit neatly into familiar, well-defined boxes. Effective change management, on the other hand, requires the buy-in and active participation of virtually everyone, across all roles, levels, and departments. As a result, many healthcare organizations dedicate resources to the part of the process they can more easily understand and measure—and hope that the information somehow leads to improvements.
For consumer businesses and healthcare organizations alike, closing this gap between measurement and action means investing equally in the information gathering and change management sides of the equation. If you’re collecting more complete and relevant information about your patients’ journeys in real time and from more sources, turning that data into actionable insights in near real-time, and then feeding it into a unified and effective change management framework, you can quickly identify, prioritize, and implement changes that will make the biggest difference for your patients.
Start Applying CX Best Practice to Your Patient Experience Program Today
The world’s biggest and most successful consumer businesses have been obsessed with improving their customers’ experiences for decades. And despite the important differences between healthcare organizations and consumer businesses, there is a very long list of techniques, tools, and best practices you can adapt and apply to breathe new life into—and create new possibilities for—your patient experience program.
Find out how MaritzCX can help you apply best practices from the consumer world to enhance every part of your patient experience program and meet the rising expectations of your patients.
Call 385.695.2800 or visit maritzcx.com/patient-experience to talk to a representative and schedule a demo.
 Kaufman, Hall & Associates report 2017 State of Consumerism in Health Care: Slow Progress in Fast Times.