Patient Experience: Is Anyone Hearing Your Roar?

by Colin Shaw on April 10, 2014

Patient Experience: Is Anyone Hearing Your Roar? Patients are like customers. Of course, patients don’t choose to be there, could be in pain, and chances are that they would rather be somewhere else, which isn’t necessarily true for customers. But like customers, patients have expectations and perceived experiences. A good or bad patient experience can make a big difference to your operating costs.

One way to help generate a good patient experience for your facility is to consider what emotional signature you are creating in the minds of your patients. When they think of your organization, what word do you want them to associate with it? For the  children and staff at Children’s Hospital of Dartmouth (CHAD), the word is clearly a Roar. Check out the video CHAD posted earlier this year:

What I like about this video is that it shows that CHAD is a hospital that recognizes that the emotional side of a patient experience is important to both the patients and the people who are working to heal them. Who can argue that sick children are the heroes and heroines that we can all rally behind and cheer on to kicking the can of whatever has them in CHAD in the first place? The video is a good example of branding this hospital with an emotional story of strength and courage, two things you cannot have enough of when you are dealing with sick kids.

Most hospitals aren’t in the business of making money. The focus tends to be on healing people, and thankfully so. But the truth is that the average patient visit is worth $7000 and the lifetime of a patient’s health care can be up to $180,000 to $250,000 or more.

But the amount of money you get for a patient who come to your hospital because of a poor reputation or doesn’t return because of a poor experience is exactly $0.

So while hospitals aren’t in the business of making money, they are certainly not in business at all or healing anybody if they are passing up on these kinds of dollars because of a poor patient experience. The new emphasis on patient experience is no doubt also a result of the HCAHPA, or Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey.

The HCAHPA is the first nationally standardized survey for a publicly reported rating of a hospital based on the patients’ perspectives of hospital care. The survey was developed for the purposes of helping patients compare in a meaningful way hospitals that are local, regional or national. But it also is a motivator for hospitals to improve their standard of care and the patient experience and also to enhance the accountability of a hospital for the standard of care they provide.

So for profit or not, patient experience is definitely an area that more hospitals are paying attention to these days but there is confusion as to what that term means.

In a recent Health Leaders Media survey of hospital staff and health system senior leaders, respondents in the US reported that hospitals that patient experience is:

Clearly the definition of Patient Experience needs clarification in the industry.

We believe that the definition follows the one we use for customer experience.

In our book “”Achieving Patient (aka Customer) Experience Excellence” we cover this concept in detail. But for the purpose of this post, let’s define patient experience using our Customer Experience definition as the basis:

“A Customer (Patient) Experience is an interaction between an organization and a customer (patient) as perceived through a Customer’s (Patient’s) conscious and subconscious mind. It is a blend of an organization’s rational performance, the senses stimulated and emotions evoked and intuitively measured against customer (patient) expectations across all moments of contact.”

So let’s focus on this first part of this definition, which reads, “as perceived through a Customer’s (Patient’s) conscious and subconscious mind…”This is where things tend to get tricky for everyone, whether you have patients or customers.

The Subconscious is part of the irrational side of an experience that we believe makes up at least half of every customer experience. The subconscious mind is closely linked to emotions and memory. The emotional side of an experience contributes to this irrational part of the experience for customers, and also for patients.

Let’s use this video as an example of how the subconscious triggers emotion. There are a lot of subconscious visual cues that trigger emotions for me. I noticed the IV cord bouncing around on the young boy dancing in his gown in front of his bed, reminding me that while he is cute he is also in a battle for his health. Also, the staff with laptops across their laps, which signifies to me that they are hard at work in the business of helping kids get better. These are just a couple of visual cues that help create an emotional reaction that will influence my subconscious reaction to the hospital.

More hospitals would be wise to follow the example set forth here from CHAD. By engaging the emotional reaction of your audience that appeals to their inner hero,   you create a subconscious positive reaction that results in a better brand and ultimately a better patient experience. A better patient experience will result in more patients that return, refer others to your hospital, and contribute to your bottom line. A better bottom line means that you can attract more technology and talent to your organization and fulfill your ultimate goal of healing the sick.

So with all of these great benefits to gain, what’s stopping you from creating an emotional signature for your organization? What can you do today to make sure that your patients or customers can hear your Roar?

Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the top 150 Business Influencers in the world.  He is an international author of four best-selling books on Customer Experience. Colin’s company, Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from our Global Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.

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Colin ShawPatient Experience: Is Anyone Hearing Your Roar?