The healthcare industry has been asking patients how they feel for over a decade. But patient satisfaction surveys only go so far — to really move the needle on the patient experience, it’s time the industry embraced experience management.

Healthcare is an experience business.

We all are in the business of experience. Healthcare is no different. Taking care of patients all day, every day, means we deliver experiences with patients, family members, providers, volunteers – anyone who interacts within our healthcare system. The high quality, safe, compassionate care we deliver at the lowest cost and/or value is often difficult and something we need to understand and manage closely. As a result, experience management needs to become incorporated into the day to day operations across an organization.

But what is experience management? Experience Management (XM) is the discipline of using both experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data) to measure and improve the four core experiences of any business: customer, employee, product and brand.

As healthcare faces the challenge of meeting consumer expectations with a workforce that is being asked to do more with less every day, compounded by an environment of changing regulations, it’s clear our industry must focus on human beings and increase our ability to adapt. This is where the discipline of XM comes into play. XM enables an organization to succeed in this environment by enabling them to do three things:

  1. Continuously Learn

  2. Propagate Insights

  3. Rapidly Adapt

Continuously Learn is about understanding how the experiences you deliver affect all the people (employees, customers, caregivers, etc.) that interact with your organization. Learning how these experiences impact your brand and culture help you implement processes that address customer service interactions.

Propagate Insights is about putting the right information in the right form and in front of the right people to help them make better decisions.

And Rapidly Adapt means building the capabilities to be able to respond to insights quickly and make changes to improve the experience.

To date, patient satisfaction surveys have been the industry’s primary tool for trying to understand and manage the experiences being delivered — but their impact is limited. To truly transform experiences, it’s time to look beyond patient satisfaction surveys and move towards a more holistic approach to accurately measure and glean insights from timely, role and site-based feedback – and then use these insights to make patients feel known and understood AND help systems achieve financial health and improve quality and wellness outcomes.

How can healthcare better listen to patients today?

In healthcare, we have a long history of asking for feedback from our patients and families about their perception of their experience. Recognizing that patients and families do not have the clinical training to truly and effectively evaluate the clinical quality of care, asking about their service experience has traditionally been a proxy for a patient’s perception of quality.

This process of administering surveys became much more rigorous and embedded in our organizations with the advent of HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) in 2006, which standardized the collection and public reporting of patients’ perceptions of care.

There are strict rules and regulations around how organizations collect and report this data. Surveys must be administered by mail only, telephone, mail with telephone follow-up and/or Active Interactive Voice Response (IVR), and can only be sent to patients between 48-hours and six weeks post discharge. The results of these surveys are studied by organizations, submitted to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to be risk adjusted before they are publicly reported, and are used for calculating Medicare reimbursement for hospitals.

While the initial intention of this program was positive and something discussed in a previous post on the topic, HCAHPS alone is inadequate to nurture the habit of continuously learning and listening.

Healthcare providers feel constrained when it comes to changing this listening strategy or adding to it in innovative and creative ways. Quite frankly, healthcare providers are stuck and frustrated with their current methodology, yet lost on what to do next. The current patient satisfaction surveys fail to give organizations the right data, at the right time, and in the right form to surface predictive insights that matter most across the patient experience and activate the entire organization for improved outcomes. Healthcare needs a different way to continuously listen.

What could a different approach look like?

It’s critical to start with clearly identifying the gap that needs to be closed. Gaps exist in experiences when there is a difference between what patients and families expect and what their actual experience looks and feels like.

  • In order to understand where those gaps exist, you can use journey maps to identify all of the touchpoints impacting a patient’s experience. Using this method, you can create a roadmap for effectively capturing relevant feedback about the moments that matter the most from your patients.
  • Once you know the key moments in the patient journey, it’s time to gather insights into what’s working, what’s not and where to make improvements.
  • By adding “listening posts” at each critical moment of the patient journey, you can then identify where to focus your energy and resources for the greatest impact. You can decide where best to start – that might be within your contact center, through digital intercepts on your website or mobile app, or soliciting feedback after an appointment through SMS or touch screens installed on-premise.

Depending on your health system’s needs, the issues identified by your patients, and your strategies and goals, you can nimbly listen, adjust, and modify what your listening posts capture to help answer questions about the gaps that exist.

Modern feedback tools are different from the patient satisfaction surveys we have known. Questionnaires can be administered in real-time and are quick to complete. They ask a few insightful questions and are powered by artificial intelligence to create meaningful feedback experiences that strengthen the relationship with your customers (here at Qualtrics, we call this having Smart Conversations). The approach is facile, so as you learn more about the experiences of the people that matter most (not only your patients and families, but also your staff, providers and communities you serve), you can mold and adjust your data collection to gain deeper understanding. Results are collected on a single platform allowing for deeper analytics and insight delivered in real-time.

Listening leads to insights and action.

Once you have comprehensive experience data (X-data) from a variety of sources, you can begin to layer that data with your operational data (O-data) to transform how this information leads to powerful, clarifying insights.

With your X- and O-data combined, you have the tools to start making improvements with real impact. You know what you need to fix and what impact it will have on your most important metrics, whether it’s patient satisfaction, clinical outcomes, or business metrics like revenue and profit. By prioritizing your investments in effectively measuring patient experience, you gain the insights you need to demonstrate the impact of your improvements across the organization.

This is what XM looks like. As you strengthen the discipline of XM across your organization, you develop habits of continuously listening, propagating insights and rapidly adapting, ultimately improving experiences.

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