Here are a few of new phrases being added to the healthcare manager’s vernacular:
- Competitive advantage
- Marketplace differentiation
Historically, American consumers have often looked for best prices and perceived value. However those same Americans are now patients and have given the healthcare industry a scholarship in perpetuity. Well, as the saying goes, all good things do come to an end.
The intersection of events such as rising insurance costs, a greater shift of the cost being pushed to the patient, significant competition amongst healthcare facilities and Obamacare, sprinkled in for good measure, has left patients more actively involved not only in their clinical path of care, but also in the costs and the options available when receiving healthcare services.
Fortunately, healthcare has not lowered its standards to the point of Super Bowl advertising for bargain price open heart surgery with the cute doctor’s kid as a pitchperson, but you can’t drive down a suburban road without seeing how long the wait time is at one of the many local hospitals.
All of this brings me back to the three new phrases the healthcare universe needs to grasp and accept as their new reality. We must finally accept the fact that "the patient is our customer,” we must each take a deeper look into how we will differentiate ourselves in the marketplace and we must look at ourselves and ask "How we are viewed competitively to the other facilities in town?”
Today’s healthcare facility cannot rely solely on quality of care as its strategy. While obviously still a critical aspect of the patient’s experience, the comparison would be Disney only focusing on rides and not paying attention to the rest of the park. In the end, the clinical interaction of a patient’s visit in terms of percent of time is roughly equal to the time spent on the actual rides, about 20%. The remaining 80%, whether at a healthcare facility or walking Main Street USA, is what forms the patient’s opinion of the healthcare experience.
If the healthcare world does not want to sink to the level of pitchmen and infomercials, the last bastion of hope is working on the entire experience we provide for the consumer, I mean patient, from scheduling to post-discharge follow up.
As the automobile industry knows so well, a customer might be a fan of a specific brand (or doctor), but that in no way guarantees the customer will return to the same dealership (or hospital) for his or her next purchase unless the entire experience, over and above the end result, is what he or she has come to expect.
Kevin J. Gordon is currently the President of PatientEase, a technology company dedicated to bringing customer service automation techniques into a healthcare facility.