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.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

7 Responses to Health Care Needs More Empathy

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  4. Karen Loftis says:

    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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