For centuries, consumers have measured healthcare providers by one metric: clinical outcome. Today, consumers no longer focus so narrowly. Consumers are tired of being treated as a number instead of a human being. They now expect the same personalized and frictionless service from healthcare providers as they experience at their favorite retail store or boutique hotel. This shift toward healthcare consumerism is growing, and expectations placed on healthcare providers are increasing.
Today’s consumer wants to drive decisions about their care, but they also want the service and opportunities presented to them to be tailored. There is an expectation that everyone on an interdisciplinary team knows their conditions, goals, and opportunities, and adapts conversation and recommendations to their specific circumstances.
So what can providers do to meet these changing consumer demands? Firstly, they must engage the consumer, whether that is a patient, guest, or family member, centrally in the process. They should set the individual at the center of the decision process. Consumers should have the necessary information to make quality decisions and exercise as much control as they wish. Secondly, providers should seek to understand the individual consumer’s needs or preferences. Providers should be able to accommodate individual needs and preferences. The better a provider understands what is essential to a consumer, the more positive an impact they can have on the experience and the outcomes.
Engage the consumer
Most healthcare providers today offer an interdisciplinary team approach to care delivery but often forget to include the consumer. This approach to care delivery puts the focus on professionals providing a service rather than the consumer managing the experience. This paradigm must shift to a partnership model that engages the consumer as the primary driver of their care. Healthcare professionals are experts in their respective care fields, but the consumer is an expert on their own life and needs. Ultimately, their contribution to the process needs to carry equal value to the rest of the team. Only then is there a real partnership or shared ownership in the process.
Healthcare providers can cultivate shared ownership in the process through consumer education and empowerment. Teaching consumers about their diagnosis, treatment options, procedures, and personnel, will enable them to make better decisions and ultimately, more informed contributions to the team. Likewise, empowering consumers to ask questions and assume shared responsibility for the management of their health, will assure the consumer that their input is valued and lead to better overall outcomes in service and care.
In a recent Forbes article, Blake Morgan highlights consumers’ desire for education and empowerment. “What do patients want? They want healthcare providers who actually listen to them and show they care instead of speeding through their appointment. Patients want doctors who create understandable treatment plans. One survey found that 25% of patients don’t have a strong sense that their provider actually cares about them as an individual.” Providers help to create a sense of caring by engaging consumers as partners in the healthcare process.
Understand the consumer
Understanding what is essential to an individual consumer enables meaningful discussion. Providers cannot always predict an individual’s care goals. What matters to one individual may be completely different than what matters to another. The better a provider understands what an individual’s preferred outcome is, the more positive an impact they can have on the overall care experience.
In a recent article, Dr. Lynn Ashdown describes his own experience during a rehabilitation stay that explains why an understanding of the consumer is so important.
Members of the health-care team wanted me to use an electric wheelchair, as it would allow me to go further sooner. I, on the other hand, having been physically active my entire life, wanted to exclusively use a manual wheelchair, although that limited the distance I could travel independently. Maintaining as much physical activity as possible mattered more to me than going a longer distance. When my health-care team understood what was most important to me, we were able to move forward with common goals.
This story is not uncommon in many healthcare settings. Providers have often relied on their expertise to guide plans of care. However, by including the consumer in the decision-making process and fully understanding their goals, providers can implement more comprehensive and effective strategies which result in improved outcomes and higher satisfaction.
Additional benefits of a personalized experience
It is intuitive that an engaged and understood consumer who receives personalized service will be more satisfied. Studies have also shown that this enhanced experience correlates with better health outcomes. In “Improving the Patient Experience: A Four-Part Approach to Delivering the Care Patients Want and Need,” Dr. Ralph Wiegner cites several studies that suggest this direct correlation. For example,
a team of researchers at UCLA “evaluated the link between the patient experience and clinical outcomes for more than 100,000 patients, found that those who were treated at hospitals with top-quartile scores on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey had a lower likelihood of death, failure to rescue, and minor complications that did those treated at hospitals scoring in lower quartiles.
Similarly, he reports that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality research demonstrates that the patient experience correlates positively with disease prevention and management.
Healthcare providers must continue to improve the customer experience as they respond to an increasing wave of healthcare consumerism. Today’s consumer wants a personalized experience, which is designed specifically with them and allows them the amount of control they desire. Providers can begin to accomplish this by deeply engaging and effectively understanding the needs and preferences of each individual. Petalo is working with healthcare providers to make a personalized experience reality.