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    Three Ways to Harness Consumer Feedback at Healthcare Organizations


    Many businesses measure their customer experience in terms of satisfaction or dissatisfaction, but the stakes are higher for healthcare providers operating in terms of life and death.

    Fortunately for healthcare organizations, time spent understanding the patient experience is rising in the midst of a larger customer experience revolution. This trend started in retail and hospitality industries and has raised the bar for all customer-brand relationships. Today, healthcare organizations know they must listen to and analyze patient feedback and other experiential data, and then leverage that understanding across all areas of their businesses. The question is how.

    Currently, most providers leverage only the mandatory HCAHPS survey to gather customer feedback. While this survey is important to establish a baseline understanding of care delivery (as well as for a myriad of regulatory needs), it has limited ability to surface valuable insights and transform them into improvements across the consumer journey. Healthcare organizations should go much further to truly understand patient needs, and how to align their operational and business objectives with them.

    Three questions to maximize customer feedback

    Healthcare organizations need a democratic approach to sourcing and sharing customer feedback. They must also ensure staff members at every level of their organization—from the frontline to board members—see first-hand how their role influences patients’ relationships with the organization.

    To execute all of these responsibilities at once, providers can turn to a third-party technology provider. Not only do these companies supplement a healthcare organization's own industry expertise with customer experience insights, but their ability to manage the operations of these processes from a holistic level ultimately leads to a better patient experience and the ability to deliver improved care.

    With many third parties to choose from, here are three factors healthcare providers might consider before formalizing any technology partnerships:

    1. Can I collect feedback throughout the entire patient journey?

      A patient’s journey is not just the time he or she spends with a doctor, but includes key touchpoints before and after this instance—from finding a doctor to scheduling an appointment to the at-home care that follows. As healthcare trends toward a system where consumers pay more out-of-pocket, providers will need to adopt a more retail-minded approach to customer needs and preferences. The coffee at Starbucks may be the primary product, but the quality of the interaction and the value of the purchase depends on other factors affecting the overall customer experience. For Starbucks, this may be the friendliness of its baristas or the sophistication of its mobile app. For healthcare providers, while interactions with doctors and nurses will always be paramount to the success of a healthcare experience, touchpoints beyond the core provider team now add to or detract from the overall experience—sometimes in surprising ways.

      For example, a patient who received excellent care and was satisfied with his procedure later revealed that he was upset when the hospital parking lot valet changed the radio station in his car. Although small, this single instance could be the difference between a customer who enthusiastically recommends an organization, and one who doesn’t. Surfacing insights such as these in real time protects relationships with patients by demonstrating superior care and advanced issues resolution.

    2. Can I source feedback in multiple ways?

      To ensure no piece of feedback goes unheard, providers should allow patients to voice their thoughts in as many ways as possible.

      To start, providers must diversify the channels via which patients can submit feedback—moving beyond pen and paper. Providers should consider mobile and voice-activated options, and even look to social media channels for a greater volume and variety of patient feedback. Patients live complex and busy lives, and a diversity of feedback channels establishes health care interactions as a natural part of patients’ world, not an intrusion.

      Second, providers should seek both quantitative and qualitative feedback. It’s important to know, on a scale, where customers rank an individual experience or a business. It’s even more important to hear the details behind what’s inspiring these feelings—the why.

      For example, if a patient gives her front office experience a four out of 10, there are few opportunities for providers to translate this feedback into real-world improvements. But given the opportunity to offer qualitative feedback, the same patient may reveal unforeseen weak points in the overall customer journey. The relatively low score could mean anything from that the patient was embarrassed about her insurance and unsure who to ask for help, to the staffer on shift was unfriendly.

      On the other end of the spectrum, unstructured feedback is also where patients reveal what makes an organization different and special, empowering stakeholders to replicate what’s already working and take experiences from good to great.

      Finally, healthcare organizations should begin collecting Voice of Employee (VoE) insights once their Voice of Customer (VoC) processes are established. Employees can provide unique avenues into the consumer journey, but only in a system where all feedback sources are allowed to work together.
    3. Can I scale feedback practices to meet future needs?

      From a technology standpoint, providers need a feedback system that can adapt to new channels and/or patient preferences.

      For example, patients might believe that the HCAHPS survey is too long, so providers may ask fewer questions to be respectful of their time. However, this only works on an intelligent feedback platform capable of tailoring personalized queries based on a patient's individual experiences and responses, and then deploying them at just the right time. The most sophisticated technologies can even understand how patients are responding in real time and cue follow up questions accordingly. A standard set of questions cannot do the same.

    Providers should also seek technologies capable of onboarding new feedback channels. For example, QR codes may prove useful in collecting feedback from a patient’s family (each patient assigned a unique QR code), for whom it may be easier to answer questions from the comfort of their own homes. Similarly, patients may prefer to leave a voice comment from a mobile device.

    The value of customer feedback in today’s healthcare environment

    As patients begin to transcend the traditional healthcare experience, providers must develop feedback strategies that do the same. A patient’s experience is no longer limited to just the doctor’s office (if it ever was). If providers cannot apply a true customer experience model to the entire health care journey, it’s unlikely they will find true customer satisfaction.

    This may not have been such a big deal a decade ago. However, as patients encounter a growing number of health care options and begin paying more out of pocket, the customer experience will be one of the final differentiators upon which providers can build loyalty. And in healthcare, where loyalty can ultimately lead to better care coordination for the patient, this is in everyone’s best interest.


    Dave Kriesand, is VP, consumer experience center, Banner Health.

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