The Consumerization of Healthcare
Patients don’t cease being consumers. While they prioritize the clinical outcome, they also expect a seamless customer experience.
In his book "The Effortless Experience, " Matt Dixon points out that when an individual has something positive to say about a company, they tell fewer than three people. By contrast, 48% of people who have a negative experience will tell more than ten people, mainly through social media.
“Ahhh,” you say. “But that doesn’t apply to the healthcare industry. Patients just want to get better.”
Not so fast.
Those in the healthcare delivery business are beginning to understand that patients are also consumers - with consumer expectations. Most have choices. No doubt, they base those choices primarily on quality of care and medical outcome, but they also factor in their non-clinical interactions with the clinician, hospital, or insurance company.
Patients ask, “Are they responsive? Did they proactively keep me informed? How easy is it to schedule appointments, get lab results, and address billing questions? How well does the provider coordinate with the insurance company?
Healthcare holds a special place among industries, but the trend toward consumerization means it’s no longer immune to many of the market forces impacting every other sector of the economy. It must adapt by putting a consumer orientation spin on its definition of the patient experience, a conclusion backed up by a 2020 study conducted by Deloitte focused on patient priorities in healthcare.
The study showed patient expectations very much align with general customer experience expectations. The eCommerce revolution and companies like Amazon and Uber have permanently altered consumer expectations around transparency into service delivery. Patients bring those same expectations into their healthcare experience, so getting information into their hands, quickly and accurately has never been more important.
The Cause and Cost of a Poor Patient Experience
Healthcare contact center agents – nearly 200,000 of them in 2020 - and Healthcare practitioners themselves have an oversized influence on the quality of the patient experience. Ultimately, the responsibility for a disgruntled patient falls to them.
When assessing the full patient experience, healthcare industry players and patients look to both clinical care and visibility into that care. On the clinical side, patients’ priorities range from receiving clear expectations about their treatment plan, with post-visit follow-through, to being treated with empathy and by a physician who spends the necessary time with the patient to address any concerns.
On the consumer side, long hold times in a healthcare contact center create a perception among patients that they cannot receive the care they need when they need it. While physicians acknowledge that customer service training and improving non-clinical service levels are essential, many feel their practice lacks a sophisticated consumer-oriented mindset.
What else drives patient dissatisfaction with their contact center experience? When a patient must – or perceives they must - take additional action to resolve their issue, they are less likely to remain loyal to that company or practitioner. Of course, the meaning of 'additional action' depends on the patient. For some, it could be as simple as being transferred between agents. It might be something more significant for others, like a failure to resolve their issue on the first try.
Beyond creating perception problems, a poor patient experience can demonstrably impact patients, physicians, and practices alike. As previously noted, there are significant overlaps between patient and traditional customer experience expectations. A 2010 medical journal study revealed that a patient interacting poorly with a physician would share that experience with ten or more people - a nearly identical finding to Matt Dixon's findings in "The Effortless Experience". Notably, the lower a patient’s satisfaction with their healthcare provider, the more likely they are to file a malpractice suit. Physicians falling into the bottom third of all satisfaction scores relative to their peers are 110% more likely to experience malpractice lawsuits relative to their peers.
Rehabilitating the Patient Experience with WFM Technology
Organizations focused on patient outcomes may not be aware of how difficult they are to do business with. In many instances, this disconnect in the patient experience traces back to a lack of business-technology sophistication in the contact center and an over-reliance on siloed technology and processes. The truth is, far too few healthcare contact centers are effectively integrating specialized medical software (e.g. Epic EMR), with their contact center software and other enterprise systems, and that comes at a cost.
Looking specifically at contact centers, it's not enough to have agents in seats in today's consumer-centric environment. Healthcare contact centers need to go one step further. They need sophisticated WFM forecasting and scheduling capabilities to ensure an agent with the right skill set is in the right seat at the right time. That agent must be able to answer a patient’s question correctly and empathetically, whether it be an insurance question on the phone or a medical question via email.
Also crucial are speech analytics and conversation tracking tools – the ability to record, monitor, and review patient interactions. Without such capabilities, healthcare organizations cannot possibly understand patient sentiment.
Five or ten years down the road, as the consumerization of healthcare continues, patient expectations will be highly evolved; they'll demand something closer to the experience delivered by Amazon, Apple, or online retailers like Zappos. These companies were once considered digital disruptors, but they’re now setting the standards patients will bring to every interaction with their healthcare service providers.
The question for healthcare service providers is, will they adapt their technology and processes to meet rising patient expectations? In an environment where patients exercise unprecedented control over healthcare choices, their future competitiveness may depend on it.
Elevēo provides effective, simplified solutions for complex contact center problems. Our WFM and WFO tools are specifically designed to elevate commercial contact center operations and processes. They are built using modern frameworks and cloud-native technologies that scale & move with your business. Elevēo ® is a registered trademark of ZOOM International.