In my previous blog post, I discussed outmigration and the importance of encouraging and incentivizing patients to seek medical treatment in the right setting at the right time. Where and when patients get treatment is just one of many aspects of patients’ experience with the healthcare industry during their lifetimes.
A world of immediacy
Historically in the U.S., patients were accustomed to waiting weeks or even months to see physicians. But today we live in a world where people are increasingly becoming accustomed to getting their needs met quickly. As of 2015, 64% of Americans owned a smartphone. Immediately, in the palm of their hands, smartphone owners can book an appointment with a service provider, order a meal, and get directions.
Many industries have evolved in order to make their services more immediate. The banking industry is good example of one of them. Banking hours were extended to evenings and weekends, the times that are more convenient for customers. ATMs and online banking are available at any time of the day. And many banks provide apps that allow customers to manage their bank accounts on their smartphones.
As more people become accustomed to services being convenient, accessible, and timely, they will expect no less from their healthcare providers. Patients expect to not only be pleased with their outcomes but also be pleased with the experience they had when they arranged their medical consultation or treatment and while they were in a healthcare setting for treatment.
Aesthetically hospitals have come a long way from the somewhat dreary, “hospital green” settings they used to be. Today’s hospitals look and feel more like nice hotels. However, now patients naturally expect the quality of care and service to correspond with the improved aesthetics. Here are a few metrics that we can use to measure whether hospitals are meeting those expectations:
- How many times patients had to call to book an appointment
- How long patients waited on the phone to book an appointment
- How long patients waited in the waiting room to be seen by a physician
- How friendly the staff and physician were
These metrics are similar to those that are used in many other industries to measure the quality of customer service. Forward-thinking healthcare providers are realizing that patients’ expectations for these types of things are no different than their expectations of their experience at hotels and restaurants.
Patients’ expectations also will likely correlate with the kind of medical care that they need. For example, many patients travel to centers of excellence for specialized care such as cancer or cardiovascular treatment because they know that these centers focus on providing the best outcomes for specific medical conditions. The stakes are high in this situation because patients’ expectations are high. When these centers deliver the high-quality care and good outcomes that patients traveled to them to receive, they create an excellent experience that meets patients’ high expectations.
Creating the best possible experience
To help create the best possible healthcare experience for patients, suppliers can ensure that patients’ interaction with their devices is simple and straightforward. For products that are used directly by patients, suppliers can design packaging that’s not only safe but also easy for patients to open. They can also provide educational materials that help patients use their devices. In the past most patient materials were created by providers, but today suppliers often create these materials because they know their products best.
Providers, payers, and suppliers need to work together toward making patients’ healthcare experience convenient, accessible, and timely. But we also need to think beyond those goals. Patients’ healthcare experience is becoming ever more relevant and more important to them. And that’s as it should be. When we’re sick or injured, in addition to being in pain or discomfort, we’re often anxious, upset, and vulnerable. This is arguably one of the most important times in people’s lives to make their experience positive and meaningful.
David Reed is currently Vice President of Operations, Vice President of Healthcare Business Solutions for Cook Medical Incorporated. With over 30 years of life science industry expertise Dave holds an MBA from California Miramar University and serves as a member of the Indiana University Kelly School of Business Supply Chain and Global Management Academy Advisory Board.