Health Care Needs More Empathy

The US healthcare system needs a major makeover. Costs are skyrocketing, institutions aren’t geared for chronic care, and customer experiences aren’t very good. But there’s some hope.

Retailers and medical providers are applying retail strategies to health care. After closing a majority of its walk-in clinics, Wal-Mart is rebuilding the business through partnerships with hospitals, Cleveland Clinic is working with CVS drugstore clinics, and the Mayo Clinic operating a couple of Express Care clinics. These retail locations aim to increase the convenience and decrease the costs of some health care interactions.

In Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, I led a panel of customer experience executives that included the Chief Experience Officers from both CIGNA (Ingrid Lindberg) and the Cleveland Clinic (M. Bridget Duffy, MD). It was great to see such dynamic executives leading customer experience transformations inside of these institutions.

Lindberg’s team found that the language used by the large insurer (which is common across the industry) was a huge barrier for individual consumers. So they created a list of words and acronyms not to use with members. By simply changing the words they saw a 156% increase in understanding. The visibility of customer experience at CIGNA has been raised to the point that it’s a monthly topic for the senior executive team.

The customer/patient experience effort at the Cleveland Clinic can be seen in the first few pages of it’s 2008 Annual Report:

ClevelandClinicAnnualReport

This quote shows Cleveland Clinic’s commitment to more than medical outcomes. Duffy explained how each of the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic gets a scorecard at the end of the year with volume metrics and quality and safety metrics. The scorecard now includes patient satisfaction and loyalty scores.

The bottom line: Health care needs more leaders like Lindberg and Duffy

Editorial note: Bridget Duffy left the Cleveland Clinic.

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

7 thoughts on “Health Care Needs More Empathy”

  1. In her presentation at the Forrester CE Forum, Ingrid mentioned an article about her “dirty words” initiative. I’ve not managed to find online yet…

    Any suggestions for getting a bit more background on her project? Such a collosally obvious and elegant solution to a very common problem 🙂

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