Consistency, Consistency, Consistency – It’s a Must in This Age of Healthcare Consumerism

The following is a guest blog post by Laura Alabed-Olsson, Marketing Manager of Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
Laura Alabed-Olsson
Whether I’m visiting my favorite restaurant, online shopping from the couch, or navigating airport security (grrrr), for me, consistency counts.  In fact, it’s amazing how even the most daunting of tasks can seem more manageable when I know exactly what to expect.

Research shows that I’m not alone in my preference for predictability and familiarity, especially as it relates to consumerism.  A 2014 study of 27,000 American consumers by McKinsey & Company found that a consistent customer experience across the entire customer journey increases satisfaction, builds trust and boosts loyalty.  Similarly, a 2015 study by King Brown Partners found that 80% of people agree that consistent consumer experiences strongly impact brand perception.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with healthcare.  Do your patients (and prospective patients) really think about shopping for a TV and shopping for healthcare in the same way? In this world of high-deductible health plans, narrow networks and walk-in clinics on every corner, yes.

Consider this:

  • 92% of consumers want more control over their personal health. [1]
  • 52% report searching online for health or care-related information. [2]
  • 91% say they are loyal to their doctor, yet 44% may change for a more convenient location and 33% may change for a lower cost. [3]
  • 67% say the overall patient experience plays an extremely important role in their decision-making process. [4]

The consumer mindset has clearly taken root in healthcare. While slashing prices or relocating to a more convenient location likely isn’t possible, thankfully, there are simple things providers can do now to deliver a consistent, consumer-centric experience that gets and keep patients.

  1. Ensure customer satisfaction during each and every encounter – and across all channels. This means having staff, protocols and supporting mechanisms (from online self-scheduling to after hours call support) in place during regular office hours and beyond. Today’s healthcare consumers expect 24/7 access and the most successful providers deliver.
  1. Communicate with patients frequently and in a way that’s convenient for them. A majority of patients believe that technology supports better care, so use it to reach out with appointment reminders, preparation and discharge instructions, preventive health reminders, and messaging that helps with disease management. Doing so supports a stress-free (and wonderfully predictable) care experience – while also minimizing scheduling gaps and boosting population health.
  1. Welcome questions (above and beyond the regular ones). This new age of healthcare consumerism can be challenging for providers and patients alike. By welcoming patient questions specific to once taboo subjects like cost, quality and alternative therapies, you’re helping build trust, loyalty and a better healthcare consumer – and that’s good for your patient, your business and the healthcare industry at large.

Yes, consistency is where it’s at…the numbers don’t lie. Are you delivering?

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answeringappointment scheduling, and automated communication services. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

[1] Ipsos, Pfizer and the National Council on Patient Information and Education, April 2015
[2] Deloitte’s 2015 Survey of US Health Care Consumers
[3] RBC Capital Markets Consumer Health & Information Technology Survey, April 2015
[4] Beryl Institute, September 2015

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  • Cute, obviously she never worked in the front line of medical patient care. She would quit in 2 days. There is NOTHING consistent about healthcare except inconsistency. Do I ensure customer satisfaction if the only reason they are visiting me is to get a day off work or narcotics? That happens daily. I should just “Make them happy” and give them what they want? Really? Its not a CUSTOMER VENDOR relationship, its a doctor patient relationship. I don’t always tell you what you want to hear, nor give you what you want. She also has never been aggravated to death on patients demanding how and when they want to be communicated, at no convenience of your time, even while driving? Should I pull over and answer my phone if I am driving as its best for the patient, every time? All day and night? I should never sleep? Again its cute but not realistic at all.

  • To meltoots; I see it your way, but I think there are some ‘service’ points to keep in mind, though your ‘crowd’ or patient mix has a huge affect on how they are ‘serviced’. If junkies at a methadone clinic…

    A week ago I witnessed a whole series of ‘very bad customer service’. Patient is in doctor’s office, has blood test that indicates an immediate need for a trip to the ER (not quite ambulance level yet). Doctor has to get orders to the hospital for a complex treatment scenario, once patient is at the hospital there is a whole list of things for pharmacy and nursing, little for doctors. ER might add EKG. ER wants to add routine blood tests (all actually done earlier in office). All the patient’s doctor needs to do is get the orders the 5 miles from his office to the ER. Supposedly his office has a ‘terminal’ for the hospital’s EHR – but oops – ER EHR doesn’t communicate with hospital EHR. So we need a very detailed fax. But 6 hours after the decision was made, and 5 hours after patient arrived in ER, the orders had not yet arrived. And no one told the patient that’s why treatment had not begun. When that news got out, it took a difficult, pushy call to the doctor’s service before the doctor could be reached and orders given orally by cell phone to an ER doctor; treatment began minutes later. And at least one med that should have been included (non-critical) was not included. Oh, and it also took many more hours to get a hospital room for the patient – and that’s done internally by phone calls and faxes.

    A couple days later, a hospitalist tried to delay the patients departure while looking for more blood tests to be done. Given the circumstances, it was inappropriate, and the actual specialists were quite ready to have the patient discharged once the treatment was complete. Eventually, a resident filling in for the now off-for-the-night hospitalist signed off on the discharge, all done on paper, with no viable discharge instructions. And no indication that the doctor’s office had any viable report back to his practice and its EHR.

    Point being; this was very poor customer service. The doctor did not ensure that the orders got through – and they didn’t. The ER staff did not tell the patient the truth about the delay (the nurse thought it was a pharmacy problem). And in the meantime, a very valuable ER bed was occupied for several hours with no treatment going on while many others waited for a bed for their own issues.

    Customer service would be far better if the doctor’s practice had a modern EHR based method to transmit the orders to the ER on a timely basis, if the ER had an EHR linked to the rest of the hospital, etc. If the hospital EHR reported the specialists decision to discharge the patient. And it being clear that the doctor would get a timely final report on the patient stay. To me, that should be the point of an article like this – customer service under difficult circumstances, surrounding great communications. Imagine that patient having only an hour or two in the ER instead of maybe 12 – 24 hours, and that valuable ER bed freed up much sooner, and the treatment done in the correct ‘ward’ (which has the specialty knowledge that the ward the patient was sent to did not). This whole thing was a comedy of errors, and a great example of awful customer service, and horrific waste of valuable hospital resources. It could have been prevented by good communication among the various medical entities.

    Beyond that, sure – good portal use, all that helps. But it’s only a small part of the problem.


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