The consumerization of healthcare has neglected the needs of the patient. Due to recent regulatory changes, unhappy patients have become very expensive for both payers and providers. The key to improving outcomes and patient experiences lies in the voice of the patient.
Patients have been treated as consumers throughout their healthcare experience. Medical professionals and hospitals, as for-profit institutions, provide services for consumers. The very word "consumer” is driven by the expectation that patients are the passive receivers in their own healthcare.
Much attention is paid to efficiency of medical providers and staff in creating timely, quality services. However, hospitals and medical centers are so overwhelmed with the volume of consumers they serve, that quality care and the concept of patients as individuals, gets drowned out while trying to improve all aspects of care all at once. In many cases, only one or a handful of individuals are charged with improving the quality of patient care. The resources simply aren’t available to properly address the complicated problems in these enormous institutions. Such change is often referred to as "turning the titanic.”
Regulatory changes have attached significant financial incentives to providing patients high-quality care and a great care experience. The CAHPS surveys that measure patient satisfaction give hospitals general suggestions but no insight into the patient experience context. Treating patients as a consumer mass does not solve the problem of learning from and improving patient experiences.
How can we make a patient experience professional’s job easier? We can start by breaking it down patient by patient (or rather person by person). Their experiences are the stars in which healthcare professionals, providers and administrators need to guide their practices.
First we need to pay attention to these individual experiences. Narratives are important. There is no single patient narrative, and so there is no single approach to better patient experience. In addition, the narratives patients tell do not start when they enter a hospital or physician’s office. A person’s health is a culmination of all things relative to their individual life narrative. Patients bring much more than signs and symptoms into the healthcare delivery system. The sooner that is recognized, the sooner we can understand how an individual’s interactions in the healthcare delivery system can be improved.
Perhaps if we give patients’ narratives an opportunity to be heard and understood, we can balance the financial responsibilities of providing healthcare services with the clinical responsibility of providing high-quality care with a great experience.
Senem Guney, PhD, is the Founder & CEO of NarrativeDx. The NarrativeDx patient experience management platform provides actionable insights from unstructured patient feedback to improve care and maximize reimbursements. Senem's research and consultancy prior to founding NarrativeDx span across healthcare and technology development industries.
Devon Santoro is completing a Master's in Health Advocacy at
Sarah Lawrence College and is on the staff of NarrativeDx.