Loyalty – The True Reward for Unparalleled Patient Experience

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a conference on Healthcare Experience Design. This is an incredibly important part of the work in providing a positive patient experience. In fact, experience design has been identified as one of the fourteen core domains in the Patient Experience Body of Knowledge (Have you provided your input yet?). The element of design focuses on possibility, not problems. I believe we need to ensure patient experience overall has that same intention.

The well-known design firm IDEO reinforces these principles in the way they work with partner organizations. They describe this as design thinking, “a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices.” This is a powerful statement in that patient experience in many ways is just that, the ability to move beyond problems to something more meaningful, and beyond standard processes, to those that have real and lasting impact. In this shift from a problem solving to a design mindset, the potential power of a positive patient experience is unleashed.

This idea was reinforced by Gary Hirshberg, President and CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm, who talked about the potential intersection of design and business function. He shared that while some organizations manage their priorities to reduce production costs and then direct significant dollars towards promotion and advertising, there is another opportunity. If we invest in our products and services to ensure the greatest quality experience, we can change the equation. This shift in focus is from one of awareness through advertising to one of attraction and engagement through loyalty. Hirshberg reinforced that you get to loyalty by doing what is right for your consumer, not by telling them how great you are. As I listened to this argument in the consumer product world, I found myself thinking about how this applies to healthcare.

In an era where patients and family members are becoming more consumer-savvy and the system is set up to provide for greater ways to actually comparison shop in the healthcare marketplace, how has healthcare responded? Have efforts in healthcare focused on awareness through advertising and promotion or have opportunities for loyalty been created and sustained? Has a system been built based on solving the problem of driving healthcare volume or has the industry shifted to the thoughts of possibility in designing for an unparalleled experience?

It is clear in healthcare reputation carries great weight, but how that reputation is presented also has an impact.  Advertisements for awards, recognitions or even wait times can only carry an organization so far. They are the perceived, not lived experience. Rather it is in designing and enacting the actual experience through which reputation is solidified and loyalty gained. This suggests the importance of investing in what it takes to ensure the best patient experience versus simply the messages to convey value. In doing so the conversation shifts from awareness which will need to reinforced again and again via the next print ad, billboard or TV spot, to that of experience that will reach well beyond the walls of a facility or practice, through the words of those that have walked your halls, engaged with your staff and had the chance to be impacted by the experience overall. Loyalty does come by doing right. This is making the right investments in your overall patient experience. In doing so you move beyond solving the problems for your organization and instead reinforce what is possible for your patients, their families and your team.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
Executive Director
The Beryl Institute