Patients Deserve Better Designed Experiences

I’ve recently spent some time visiting different hospitals, luckily not as a patient. There are a lot of amazing things that happen in hospitals, as the medical field continues to push the envelope on diagnostics and treatments. Many diseases that were once fatal are now being cured or at least managed.

While medicine is getter much better, patient experience remains very problematic.

In some cases, a patient’s medical experience can be like getting a scrumptious steak dinner (great medical treatment) delivered on dirty paper plate (poor experience). In the worst case (continuing this metaphor), the plate has bacteria and causes the patient to get sick. There’s a lot of research to suggest that the a patient’s experience plays an important role in how their body reacts to medical treatment.

I’ve been pleased to see a growing number of hospitals hire Patient Experience Officers. While the existence of that role is not a panacea for change, it at least demonstrate a willingness to make investments in this critical area. The bigger question, however, is how committed are hospitals to making the requires changes?

As I like saying to anyone who will listen, the experience you deliver is a reflection of your culture and operating processes. If you want to create a better patient experience, then you must change many aspects of how your hospital and its leaders operates.

How does a hospital become more patient-centric? By mastering the Four CX Core Competencies:

  • Purposeful Leadership: Operate consistently with a clear set of values.
  • Compelling Brand Values: Deliver on your brand promises to patients.
  • Employee Engagement: Align employees with the goals of the organization.
  • Customer Connectedness: Infuse patient insights into every decision.

Since this is only a post and not a book or report, I will focus the rest of what I write on one of the component strategies of Customer Connectedness called Design for Real People. Too many patient experiences are not designed, or even examined, proactively. They just happen.

Instead of leaving patient experience to chance (which typically does not work out well), Design For Real People by creating experiences that tap into patients’ emotions and behaviors. How do you do this? Well, we’ve got three approaches:

1) Establish Deep Empathy

Human beings are naturally empathetic, but something happens when we go to work. The dynamics of work and the environment we’re surrounded by can severely dampen the empathy for patients and their families. This is true for doctors, nurses, orderlies, administrators, and even volunteers. Take a look at the video, Five Ways That Organizations Crush Customer Empathy.

  • My advice: You need to amplify empathy on an ongoing basis and look really deeply at the needs of patients and their families whenever you’re designing processes, procedures, services, room layouts, or anything that will impact the experience. Make sure to actively talk about patients emotions and examine their entire journey. Download the free eBook, 25 Tips for Amplifying Empathy, for a bunch of valuable ideas.

2) Create Positive Memories

It turns out that people do not remember experiences the way that they actually occur. Our memory is not an on-demand video recorder, but instead its more like an Instagram account that is capturing some key moments along the way. One of the key studies that identified this phenomena was done by by Daniel Kahneman with colonoscopy patients. His research uncovered what he called the “Peak-End Rule’ which states that what a person remembers about an experience is the average of the peak emotion they felt throughout the experience, and the way that they feel at the experience ends. We’ve extended this rule to also include another key moment, rapid emotional spikes.

  • My advice: While there are many key moments for driving patient memories, the one that jumps to mind is the discharge experience. It’s the last experience that patients and their caregivers have in the hospital and it might be the most haphazard part of the overall experience. Patients don’t know when they are actually going to leave, don’t know what the steps are before they leave, and often given a pile of papers at the last minute. Bring together some previous patients with a few doctors and nurses and co-create a new experience. It can only get better.

3) Facilitate Intuitive Decisions

Human beings have two modes of thinking, rational and intuitive. To lighten our cognitive burden, people make most decisions using intuitive thinking—which is fast, automatic, and emotional—as opposed to rational thinking—which is slow, effortful, and logical. Unfortunately, most organizations exclusively focus on patient’s rational thinking. Since intuitive thinking relies on unconscious heuristics and biases to make decisions efficiently, hospitals must examine how they support these mental shortcuts.

  • My advice: Get familiar with human biases. For instance, did you know that people have a default bias, meaning we will most likely pick the option that requires the least action. When you are creating or evaluating any experience, make sure you are making it easy for patients to intuitively make the right decisions.

I hope that you’re motivated to actively apply customer experience practices to your patient interactions. There are a lot of great tools and practices that will help improve the lives of your patients and caregivers.

The bottom line: Patient experience matters!

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association’s Blog Carnival “Celebrating Customer Experience.” It is part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day. Check out posts from other bloggers at www.cxpa.org/blogs/cxpa-admin/2017/09/27/cxdayblogcarnival

Written by 

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.

2 thoughts on “Patients Deserve Better Designed Experiences”

  1. Bruce, it there’s another industry that needs your expertise in improving experiences more than healthcare providers, I don’t know what that could be, and thank God I haven’t come across it yet. I equate today’s Patient Experience movement to where Cable TV providers where 20 years ago. They thought they had captured markets right up until they didn’t. For HC, changes in medicaid payment policy (re-admittance) and bundled payments driving better alignment between doctors and hospitals which should in the end bode well for a drive to better patient experiences.

    1. Dave, thanks for the note. In a field like healthcare with such good intentions throughout much of the value chain, it’s a shame that there has been such little focus on patient experience. We will be trying to change that.

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