Too many patients see their healthcare providers as inefficient and downright unfriendly. The Harvard Business Review reports that although medical practices have advanced tremendously in recent years, the packaging and delivery of those services to patients have lagged behind. As a result, the hospital experience is undergoing reinvention.
Innovation in healthcare faces substantial roadblocks, given the industry’s complexities, high overhead costs, and regulation. Here are some examples of what you can do to reinvent your own healthcare company.
Create a Sense of Purpose
Employees want to feel valued and that they are a part of a best in class organization. This is why the philosophy of UCLA, one of America’s leading medical centers, includes a unique vision: “To heal humankind, one patient at a time, by improving health, alleviating suffering, and delivering acts of kindness.”
“Acts of kindness” won’t be listed on most medical centers’ mission statements, but UCLA has grasped how important it is to their continued success. It’s no wonder they currently rank 99th in terms of patient satisfaction and are consistently named in the very top hospitals in the country.
What is the “sense of purpose” for your organization? Does the strategic plan sit on a shelf, or is it embedded in the company culture? The only way to find out is to talk to employees at various levels and determine if your staff is just there for a paycheck or if they also take pride in the level of service your organization provides.
Think Creatively About Service Branding
As “patients” become “medical services consumers,” many of the same marketing strategies that work for consumer products like coffee and blue jeans will also work for primary care visits or mammograms. People who like their coffee “just so” will return to the coffee shops that serve it that way. Those are the businesses that respect their customer base and dedicate their effort into replicating positive experiences during every customer visit.
The same goals can be applied to the provision of medical services. Like any other brand, how your consumers experience your “product” will dictate whether or not they’ll come back a second, or third, or twenty-seventh time. Pay attention to the customers’ first “touch points,” where they interact for the first time ever or for the first time on that visit with your organization. Does the automated phone system effectively steer customers quickly to a person who can help them? Is the front desk staff courteous? Small changes at this level set a tone with your customers and will distinguish your organization.
Invest in Staff Development
Many medical professionals are not trained to think about their customer service. Plenty of them have the emotional intelligence to catch on quickly, but targeted staff development will strengthen the skills of your top performers and address any weaknesses in the organization.
Invest in high-quality training and, where necessary, targeted coaching for low performers. If done well, the upfront costs will pay off quickly in a better experience for patients, a better reputation for your hospital, and increased business.
Train Your Managers
Many managers today hold their elevated positions because of excellence at work. However, their exceptional nursing, coding or administrative skills do not necessarily translate into good management skills. As they advance in their career, few are explicitly taught how to develop a team or motivate their staff. You may want to avail of professional training which is targeted specifically for your managers to teach critical leadership skills. Teach them to be great leaders by showing—not just explaining—how exceptional services are performed. In simple terms, when they are “walking the talk,” they’re also leading the way for their staff members.
Introduce Innovative Technology
Innovative technologies are transforming the practice of medicine and hospitals that fail to embrace them are almost certain to lose their market share of eligible patients.
The next iteration of medical technology is the connected medical device. These devices incorporate digital technology into their functioning so that they are continuously generating data while at the same time providing the medically necessary support for the patient. Some are wearable. Sensors embedded in bandages or straps attached to the body read bio-data such as heart rate, temperature and blood pressure, then transmit the information to the medical provider through a related app on a smartphone. The data not only keeps the provider informed about patient health and activities in real-time, but it also informs the patient record upon which diagnosis and treatment decisions are based. Often, patients fitted with these devices can return home without disrupting the quality of their healthcare services.
Advancing your technology portfolio and working with the data from patient wearables will establish your company as a leader in this area.
Develop Human Connections
Sonia Rhodes is Vice President of Customer Strategy for Sharp Healthcare. Her San Diego healthcare system focuses on establishing a unique “human connection” with a patient within the first three minutes of the first appointment: “A great and unique patient experience will happen when team members can note something important about the patient, share it with other team members, and then act on it throughout the patient’s interaction with the hospital.”
If your healthcare organization seeks to reinvent the patient experience, then it is vital to improve not only patient satisfaction, but focus on a shift in your organization’s culture. Where can outdated mindsets and old habits be replaced with innovation and forward ways of thinking in the medical practice?
Health is related to so much more than just the physical well-being. Treating the patient like the human beings they are will help practitioners to effectively treat their ailments and provide a memorable healing experience.
Kindred Healthcare uses Mimeo to train and support more than half of their 75,000 employees. Find out how they keep their employees happy with relevant and helpful training content.