What is your last memory of being in a healthcare facility? Odds are you have a strong, clear recollection that you can tap into pretty quickly. That easy-to-recall memory is referred to as patient experiences, and it’s a top priority for healthcare executives.
In research from PwC, 49 percent of provider executives said revamping the patient experience is one of their organization’s top three priorities over the next five years.
Improving patient experience is more complicated than you think. Patient experience is defined as the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organizations culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of healthcare. Therefore, an organization’s culture defines and shapes the interactions of patients, yet many organizations choose to channel their patient experience efforts to online portals or bills and forget about the force culture has on patient experience.
What Is an Experience?
The groundbreaking Harvard article, “The Experience Economy,” pointed out that experiences are not constructs but a distinct economic offering, as different from services as services are from goods. The authors noted that many organizations simply wrap experiences around their traditional offerings to better sell them. But to realize the full benefits of staging experiences, businesses must deliberately design engaging experiences. That happens when a company intentionally uses services as the stage to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event. One of the most successful companies at doing that is Disney.
In the book “If Disney Ran Your Hospital,” author Fred Lee follows up on this thesis and makes the distinction that hospitals are in the business of providing experiences. While they may not be “happy” experiences, they still fall under the category of an experience. Lee also describes the difference between patient satisfaction and perceptions, noting that satisfied patients rarely give feedback. It’s either the ones who are really dissatisfied or the ones who had a truly memorable experience (the promoters).
Lee also analyzes promoters’ feedback and discovers that empathy, compassion, and kindness are the top terms the promoters with memorable experiences used in their reviews. What is especially interesting is that promoters have a significant effect on a provider’s financial performance.
How can we apply these patient experience facts? By creating a culture of clinical empathy that inspires compassion that will lead to both patient and employee loyalty. A Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations report found that communication failures were a root cause of more than 70% of serious adverse health outcomes in hospitals. And conversely, studies have shown that clinical empathy is clearly associated with better patient outcomes. With the right resources, clinical empathy is now both teachable through training and measurable through surveys.
The Role of Culture
Lee also talks about how important culture is in shaping the patient experience and makes an analogy comparing a movie to a patient experience. He compares the medical staff and employees to actors. Management’s role is to enable employees to deliver empathetic performances. Lee adds on to his argument that management and employees should be held accountable for patient experience just as they are accountable for other quality or operational KPIs.
To sum it up: empathy is a critical staff competency that shapes patient experience, and your employees shape your culture. Making employees accountable for patient experiences is integral to making lasting, long-term cultural changes.
X + O Vision
One year ago, SAP acquired Qualtrics. Qualtrics is an experience management leader that simplifies research and captures customer, product, brand, and employee experience insights. This acquisition was triggered by a vision that combining Qualtrics experience data and SAP operational data (X+O) can transform the way companies respond to customers in real time. This created a new category in the market that we call Experience Management (XM).
SAP SuccessFactors is a people engagement platform that enables organizations to better manage and engage their employees. It helps you create an employee lifecycle that is based on skills and competencies (for example, JCI Skills), enabling you to hire, measure, and compensate employees based on the competencies each job requires. On the other hand, Qualtrics captures patient perceptions across all your organization’s interactions whether digital, medical, or administrative.
SAP is a unique position to help you operationalize patient experience through our X+O vision that is the fusion of Qualtrics and SuccessFactors. SuccessFactors will help you include clinical empathy training in your employee training plans. The goals and performance module will also help you map performance to patient perceptions captured with Qualtrics. Qualtrics will also help you collect employee feedback and link it to patient perceptions. Thus, binding the perceptions of patients to your people—and inherently your culture.
Having this ability to calibrate and correlate patient experiences with different types of compensation and learning initiatives while maintaining your employee experiences helps to unlock the power of your organization and build a patient experience strategy that is personalized to your culture. This is what I truly believe patient experience initiatives should focus on, and it’s an innovative resource that is available for healthcare organizations that want to revamp their patient experiences for the better.
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