Healthcare Experience Blog

Consumers want more digital access in healthcare

As I write this, the way we communicate with each other personally, professionally, and in healthcare, is changing rapidly.

In our recent “What’s Reasonable” Study of more than 400 American consumers, more than half of our respondents said they own a smartphone, which is comparable to the percentage cited in a recent Pew Research Center poll.

The adoption of “smart” devices extends across the generations. There is higher adoption in Generations X and Y (as I would expect), but there is also a significant amount of usage among Baby Boomers (42%) and Seniors (20%). Mobile communication gives us the ability to get a hold of family, friends, and, in some cases, healthcare providers, right now, on our own terms, from wherever we are. No wonder it’s so popular.

Are consumers ready to interact with healthcare using mobile devices? One way to assess that is to see what consumers are ALREADY doing online in other parts of their lives. Do they use the Internet for banking and online bill pay? Making travel arrangements? In our study, 8 out of 10 people say they go online to manage their finances; almost 60% say they make their travel arrangements online. So the answer is clearly “yes.” This shows that consumers are willing to entrust their personal and financial information to brands they trust, for services they value.

A “self-serve” behavior outside of healthcare activities has also translated into consumers’ inclination to seek information about healthcare, particularly around the quality and cost of healthcare. Almost half of our respondents are already going online to look up information about a doctor and one in four has used the Internet to try and find the cost of a medical procedure. Rather than rely on someone else to give them healthcare information, or simply do what they’re told to do, patients are taking charge. And using the Internet to do so.

Our study confirms that healthcare consumers are starting to act like retail customers, rather than passive recipients of technical services they don’t understand and don’t have to pay for.

In my next blog, we’ll look at whether consumers are willing to pay, out of their pockets, for digital access and assistance. And which kinds of digital access are most important, right now, to consumers across the age spectrum.

In the meantime, if you’d like to view our 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” webinar focusing on patient expectations of online versus conventional access to providers, you can download the PowerPoint deck from the presentation here or download the full audio/visual recording here.

It’s 2014. What’s Reasonable?

There’s been a lot of buzz about consumers gaining access to their Electronic Health Records, being able to go online and see their medical test results, and wanting to communicate directly with doctors using email.

But how many consumers really prefer online versus more traditional modes of communicating and gaining information? Just as importantly, how significant is email conversation with a doctor, and will consumers pay for this? And how do these preferences differ among Seniors, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers?

We wanted to find out. So we conducted our 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” national study with over 400 American consumers.

The results were surprising to us, and may be to you as well. Fewer people than you might imagine want to go online to see their lab results or set up a medical appointment. A lot more than we guessed would prefer to take a patient experience survey online or via an app than via the two methods most widely used today: mail and phone.

Some hospitals and systems are well on their way to making it possible for us to do many of these things, driven in part at least, by the mandates and funding associated with the much-maligned Meaningful Use legislation.

So now’s a good time to gauge those efforts against what consumers told us are their current preferences, knowing that a growing percentage of the population wants to do things digitally and achieve instant gratification.

I invite you to join us for a free webinar in which we will reveal–and discuss–the results from our new “What’s Reasonable?” study on what consumers expect regarding online access to doctors and health information. This one-hour webinar is on Thursday, May 29, from noon-1PM CDT. Please email abby.shields@catalysthcr.com with your name and the name of your organization to register.

Hindsight is 20/20: What CXOs wish they had known

In a recent white paper that I co-authored with Jason Wolf, president of The Beryl Institute, we asked patient experience leaders to reflect on what they wish they had known before assuming their current positions.  We thought it might prove valuable to those who may be hiring a Chief Experience Office (or equivalent) and to those who may be considering accepting such a position.

Several patient experience leaders told us that it’s critically important that a new CXO determine to what extent a “culture of experience does or does not exist” in the organization. It’s easy to give lip service to “putting patients first,” but not so easy to actually do so, day in and day out, throughout an organization.  Take some time to talk casually with a cross-section of people who hold a variety of jobs.  Ask them cultural questions like “what’s it like to work in this place?” or “how often do the nurses complain about the doctors?” or “whose responsibility is it to guide visitors?” The answers will provide clues as to the real operating culture of the place, not just what the mission statement says.  Also interviewing various department and functional heads, such as the person handling clinical quality, the person responsible for HR, etc. will provide an early indication of the likely degree of collaboration that may exist to advance the PX improvement agenda.  Going beyond a formal interview with the CEO or COO allows the newly-appointed CXO to more accurately determine how far the organization has yet to travel to foster a patient-centric culture.

Another theme that emerged was patience. Patience is a virtue, and the CXO role requires a lot of it, we were told. Several of the interviewees spoke to the fact that they wish they had changed their mindset before going into their current job.  They came from environments where there were short-term goals, actions, and results.  Now they must mentally prepare themselves for longer-term, more subtle changes, and the results may not be evident for months or even years. Patient experience improvement isn’t so much a single goal as it is “an improvement journey” with performance indicators, like HCAHPS and employee engagement scores.  The CXOs reinforced the idea that it takes not only a herculean amount of effort, but gobs of time to create meaningful change, especially behavioral change, throughout a hospital or an entire health system.  Patience is a neccessity.

By people’s comments, it is also clear that there is a delicate balancing act between instituting certain core values and practices every day and every time versus allowing/encouraging flexibility in how key standards are implemented.  “One size fits all” as a dictum usually generates tremendous resistance.  Health systems are made up of many hospitals that are all different sizes, require different resources, and have their own specific needs. While tactics that work in one unit or one hospital may seem like the obvious choice for others, it’s often difficult to “impose” them from the top.  Involving staff through guided, interactive discussions of how patient experience is delivered today and how this can be improved, within the context of asking them to be mindful of what called them into healthcare in the first place, can create deeper, more meaningful cultural change.  People are then empowered and encouraged to act on the values of the organization, rather than merely repeat a required script.

While the “end game” is cultural change, the bigger picture is moving away from a strictly physician-focused or clinically-focused model to a truly patient/family-focused one.  As such, measurement along the journey is essential.  Several of the patient experience leaders told us that their previous background in using numbers and statistics was extremely helpful in their current jobs.  From the get-go, a new CXO should be prepared to understand, communicate, and utilize HCAHPS scores in their experience efforts. “Data” and “stats” along with “stories” and “quotes” are needed to positively influence the behavior of physicians, department heads, and all other staff. People want to know how they are performing, and how their performance stacks up, over time, and against benchmarks, including internal goals.  So the CXO must learn to use the numbers to his/her advantage.

To learn more about the emerging role of the CXO in healthcare and what our respondents had to say, click here to download this ground-breaking new white paper.  Be sure to enter code CXO_CATALYST at checkout to get this at no charge.

What do you have to be to become a CXO?

What kind of background “qualifies” you to become a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) in a hospital or other healthcare organization? Well, it turns out there is no single answer.

Worked in a non-profit? Worked for NASA? Been a nursing or marketing leader? Almost any background can provide the grounding and dare I say “wisdom” to ascend to a senior leadership role around patient experience.

That’s what we found when Jason Wolf (president of The Beryl Institute) and I interviewed 15 different CXOs or equivalents, some working for a single hospital, others working in a large system.

Jeanette Hodge, Executive Director of Patient Experience at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said that her professional life has been “grounded in relationship building.” Her background includes work as a Patient Advocate and she holds a volunteer administration certification.

Chris Holt feels that her background in marketing and branding is a key asset. She holds a dual role at Mercy Hospital in Meadowbrook, Pennsylvania as the Vice President of Marketing and Chief Experience Officer. She believes and views “patient experience” as a natural extension of the brand.

Even NASA can prepare someone for a patient experience job! Devin Carty (CXO with Cancer Treatment Centers of America) told us that his time at NASA exposed him to rational decision making, while working for Gallup revealed how emotions often govern our decisions and memories. He understands that both are important elements in shaping impressions around one of the most emotional times in a person’s life (when they’re sick or hurt or  receiving care).

If our interviewees had one characteristic in common, it was the idea that in previous positions they have been connected , in some way, with consumers. They have the ability to see and sense the world through a consumer’s eyes. In one case, it wasn’t the professional background but the profound personal experience of being a patient that he credits with his ability to to do his job now. Today, he’s the Vice President of Hospitality & Service Culture with Henry Ford Health System.

Some of the CXOs were recruited from within the organization, but just as often they were brought in from elsewhere, including other industries such as hospitality. Paul Westbrook at Inova Health System represents such a case; he spent many years as an executive with Ritz Carlton. It seems that there is no single path to becoming a CXO; the door is open for those with the passion, sensitivity, and proven leadership skills.

To download our newest white paper , “The Chief Experience Officer: An Emerging & Critical Role,” click here and enter code CXO_CATALYST at checkout.

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