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 am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

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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