Patients are still consumers. Patients aren’t content to focus on the clinical outcome. They also expect seamless customer service.
Matt Dixon, author of “The Effortless experience,” points out that people only tell three people if they have something positive to say about a company. However, 48% of people who had a negative experience will tell more people than ten, mainly via social media.
“Ahhh,”you say. “But that doesn’t apply to healthcare. Patients want to feel better.
Not so fast.
Healthcare providers are starting to realize that patients are consumers. Many have options. They base their choices on quality of care and the outcome of their medical treatment, but they also consider non-clinical interactions with the hospital, clinician or insurance company.
Patients often ask, “Are they responsive?” Is it possible to be kept informed by them? How easy was it to make appointments, get lab results and answer billing questions? How well does the provider work with the insurance company?
Healthcare is a unique industry, but it is now more vulnerable to the market forces that affect every other sector of society. It must adapt by putting a consumer orientation spin to its definition of the patient experience. This conclusion is supported by a 2020 Deloitte study that focused on healthcare patient priorities.
The study found that patient expectations were very similar to general customer experience expectations. Companies like Amazon and Uber, as well as the eCommerce revolution, have changed consumer expectations regarding transparency and service delivery. Patients have the same expectations about their healthcare experience. It is therefore crucial that they receive accurate and timely information.
The Cost and Cause of Poor Patient Experience
Healthcare practitioners and healthcare contact center agents have a huge influence on the patient experience. They ultimately have to take care of a patient who is unhappy.
Healthcare industry players and patients both look at the patient experience from two perspectives. One is clinical care, and the other is visibility. Patients’ priorities on the clinical side include clear expectations regarding their treatment plan and follow-up. They also want to feel that they are being treated with empathy by a physician who takes the time to listen to any concerns.
Patients feel that they are not able to get the care they need because of long wait times in healthcare contact centers. Although doctors recognize the importance of improving non-clinical customer service levels and training staff in customer service, many physicians feel that their practice lacks a consumer-oriented mindset.
What is the other reason patients are dissatisfied with their contact center experience. Patients who feel they have to take additional action to resolve a problem are less likely to stay loyal to a company or practitioner. The patient will define what ‘additional actions’ means. It could be as simple as being moved between agents. For others, it could be more serious like the failure to resolve their issue within the first attempt.
Poor patient experiences can not only create perception problems but also have a significant impact on patients, doctors, and practices. There are significant overlaps in traditional customer experience expectations and patient expectations, as previously mentioned. A 2010 study in a medical journal found that patients who had a bad experience with their doctor would share it with ten to ten others – a similar finding to Matt Dixon’s findings from “The Effortless Experiment”. Notably, patients who are less satisfied with their healthcare provider are more likely to file a malpractice lawsuit. Physicians who are in the bottom third of satisfaction relative to peers are 110% more likely than their peers to be sued for malpractice.
WFM Technology: Rehabilitating the Patient Experience
Patients-focused organizations may not realize how difficult it is to do business with. This disconnect in patient experience is often due to a lack or sophistication in business technology and an over-reliance upon siloed processes and technology. It is true that not enough healthcare contact centers integrate specialized medical software (e.g. Epic EMR) with their contact center software. This comes at a price.
It’s not enough for contact centers to have agents in their seats in today’s consumer-centric environment. Healthcare contact centers must go further. They require sophisticated WFM forecasting capabilities and scheduling capabilities to ensure that the right agent is available at the right time. The agent must be able and willing to answer any questions a patient may have, via email or phone.
Speech analytics and conversation tracking tools are also crucial – they allow you to monitor, record, and review patient interactions. Healthcare organizations will not be able to understand patient sentiment without these capabilities.
Patient expectations will change in five to ten years as healthcare becomes more consumer-oriented. They’ll expect a better experience than Amazon, Apple, and online retailers like Zappos. These companies were once seen as digital disruptors but they are now setting the standards for healthcare services.