The Patient Experience

 

Steve Koch, of Cast & Hue, spends much of his time working with hospitals and health organizations talking about the shifting landscape in health care. Koch and his colleagues try to help Arizona’s health care leaders better understand patient behaviors and the patient experience. This approach of finding innovative ways to drive better health is at the very heart of our own goal to one day make Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation! Steve shares his thoughts on what he has learned and what he sees as the future of health and healthcare in our state in the blog below.

Even though healthcare may be a necessity, the world of healthcare is constantly changing and adapting to the various pulls on the consumer market. A major driver of this shift is the push for an elevated experience for the patient.

Think about the last time you actually raved about a company: why was that? Companies such as Amazon and Apple are realizing that people are not only drawn to companies based upon the products they sell or the services they offer, but because they provide an elevated overall experience. Sure, you can buy a new laptop from a myriad of stores, but many choose Amazon because it has created an experience which combines excellent comparative tools, a strong return policy, easy payment, and super-fast shipping. Each one of these aspects of the experience is great on its own, but combined, creates a truly memorable experience for the customer.

This same shift is also happening in healthcare. In fact, “Patient Experience” made the top 25 list of words changing healthcare in 2015 (Beckers Hospital Review). Just like how customers look to Amazon for a smooth shopping experience, patients are looking for many of these same features from healthcare as well: transparent pricing, easy access to information, and the ability to consult ratings and reviews to find the best value.

This shift stems from a multitude of drivers: new care platforms are entering the market (for example, telehealth), rising healthcare costs are forcing care systems to compete on more than just price, and policy changes are bringing about new reporting requirements around the quality of the patient experience. Additionally, hospitals are realizing that there is a correlation between the patient experience and quality of care. Look at this excerpt from JAMA:

“Using a national sample of hospitals, we demonstrated a significant association between patient satisfaction scores and several objective measures of surgical quality. Our findings suggest that payment policies that incentivize better patient experience do not require hospitals to sacrifice performance on other quality measures.”

Let’s take a deeper look at the three main drivers of patient experience improvement efforts:

  • New Healthcare Delivery Models – It used to be that one would simply go to their primary physician when they needed healthcare. If it was serious, they would go to the ER. Nowadays, there are a myriad of options available to patients. Telehealth is a big one: instead of waiting for a doctor, patients can now open up an app on their phone and be connected in real-time via video to a doctor. Other new models exist as well, such as retail clinics (for example, CVS MinuteClinic). These new methods of providing care compete not only on cost, but also on the experience and convenience.
  • Healthcare Costs – Healthcare costs are rising and consumers are seeing the effects. From increasingly having to pay for services out of pocket to the shift towards high-deductible plans, patients are expected to foot more of the bill than ever before. Due to this shift, hospitals are leveraging the patient experience to create more value for the patient and compete on more than price.
  • Policy Changes – Spurred in part by the Affordable Care Act, there are multiple policy changes which have led to an increased focus on the patient experience. Many of these have to do with funding and government reimbursement. As mentioned previously, a stronger patient experience actually leads to better outcomes. As hospitals begin to be penalized for errors they could have prevented, they are seeking new ways to reduce such errors. At the same time, national surveys (one such survey is HCAHPS) are allowing us to gather better statistics around experience, and this information is beginning to affect how much hospitals get paid by programs such as Medicare.

What are your thoughts on the evolution of the patient experience? Do you have any recent health experiences which led to a particularly memorable visit? If given the option, how would you improve the patient experience? S

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