When does “The Patient Experience” start?

Belimar Velazquez

Belimar Velazquez, Vice President of Marketing, eHealth Technologies

Recently, my company, eHealth Technologies participated as an exhibitor at The Beryl Institute 2016 Patient Experience Conference: a great show filled with speakers, vendors, and  services aimed at improving processes and experiences for both clinicians and patients.

As I perused the conference topics and wandered past the services offered by exhibitors, one question continued to come up in my mind; “When does the patient experience actually start?”

The majority of focus on patient experience starts at the patient’s arrival at the facility: the valet parking, the translation services, the patient portal, the clinician education on how to interact with a patient, the “decoration” of the space, and the AV amenities available for the patient.

These are worthwhile efforts that impact the patient experience, but we must remember that the patient experience starts with the referral and first phone call to the facility – something that is not part of the HCAHPS measures yet remains vitally important to overall satisfaction.

Given the many challenges and measures the healthcare industry faces today it is difficult to focus on those things that go above and beyond the minimum requirements, but it is the extra things that delight customers setting the whole experience on the right foot, and leading to the so called “halo effect.”

Let’s look at a different industry.

Those fortunate enough to visit Disney World and stay at one of their resorts have received their ‘Welcome Package’ in the mail.  This package contains information that may be found on the Disney website, or may have been communicated through family and friends, but the welcome package makes the customer feel special. It is customized and it consolidates all the information in one place laid out in an easy to follow format: important dates to remember, what other amenities are available, what Disney will take care of vs. what the customer has to take care of.  

This experience occurs before the customer leaves home. I have heard people comment on this and there have been blogs written about it. That’s how impactful this is.

Why is this important for healthcare? Because in our company sometimes we talk to patients that are frustrated by the amount of pre-work required to get healthcare. One of our customer service representatives, Donna Rodriguez, talked to a customer that had to spend a week gathering records, not for herself, but rather for her mother prior to the first appointment. This was time consuming and she actually wanted to spend the time with her mother not with the phone.

What if someone could take care of getting the records for the patient and it didn’t have to be the hospital staff? What if this was one of the welcome package amenities that get highlighted?

Getting records is a tedious job. We know because that is what we do. We not only hear from patients, we also get feedback from clinical staff regularly about how happy they are when they don’t have to do it, when someone else can do that work for them so they can spend time with the patient. If the clinical staff is happy, and the patient is happy, isn’t that part of the patient experience that starts before the patient shows up?

P.S. Even when I go for a routine exam, the “welcome package” I receive is a very thick envelope (which I dread) because it only means that I have to spend a lot of time filling out forms and I know more forms will be handed to me at the doctor’s office.

I wonder if the “welcome package” would be more enjoyable if it contained other interesting and even fun information. What about using the welcome package to highlight all the other services that highlight the unique benefits for a particular facility? If money is being spent on valet parking and other services, why not promote them even before the patient gets there?

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