Gone are the days when doctors and healthcare practitioners had the sole and final say on the approach and outcomes of patients’ medical treatment plans. A new consumer has emerged whose nature continues to evolve, ever more discerning and fastidious. This has been true for at least the past decade, but what does it really mean to be customer centric in healthcare?
In this age of globalised markets and a plethora of healthy competition, the power sits with the consumer. Patients and their loved ones, legal guardians or otherwise, have access to more information than ever and tend to be less forgiving too. It falls on the healthcare system to empower individuals to make decisions for themselves. It falls on their doctors to lead them along this intricate and manifold journey.
The importance of customer centricity
“Isn’t the priority of healthcare to prevent illness and heal the sick? Customer satisfaction is important, but saving a life and advancing medicine surely takes precedence over those other considerations.”
Such a sentiment might be common and holds its own legitimacies, to be sure. However, what it fails to capture is the recognition that healthcare is still a business which requires running. And as those go, while diagnosis and prescription efforts remain the basis of care provision, hospital heads have more than that to worry about.
It is no secret healthcare costs are no walk in the park. Towards the effort of being cost efficient, systems may be forced to centralise regulations at the expense of personalised treatment. The quality of service provision is brought into question then, boomeranging us back to the big concern reflected in the original sentiment.
Being customer centric in healthcare service provision can lessen the strain on overstretched budgets primarily through prevention. Taking sole responsibility away from front-liners means giving more agency to patients themselves, which has the added benefit of boosting staff morale.
As for the end consumer, getting them to play an active role in their care plan means being engaged in preventative action too. Tangible financial savings are on the horizon for both healthcare providers and consumers. Especially if patients understand why they need to take certain medications or make some lifestyle changes.
Better quality care
Being customer centric in healthcare also means there is a higher chance patients will bask in higher self-esteem and quality of life. Consumers as partners rather than only patients: that is what comes with empowerment. Cost-effectiveness, with the added benefit of holistic, well-rounded care.
Part of such a venture is leading consumers to make decisions for themselves. Not all patients are immediately comfortable with that, given previous eras of a strongly skewed doctor-patient power dynamic. In order to tackle this situation, a strategic course of action needs to be implemented that makes sense specifically for your hospital.
The most redeeming aspect of adopting customer centricity is that it puts the customer at the centre. In healthcare, that refers to a human life. The value of prioritising and understanding patients’ needs is a no-brainer, and the right customer centric approach will allow hospitals to be brilliant where it counts.
Who is your healthcare customer?
Meeting and exceeding customer expectations starts from understanding what the customer looks like. The healthcare sector consists of perhaps the most diverse customer profiles of all businesses. Crafting targeted solutions that are personalisable will be key to delivering great experiences in spite of such daunting variety.
For large-scale services like healthcare, there is a limit to the extent of personalisation that can be achieved. Being customer centric in healthcare, then, is about mass personalisation. Once you break your customers up into sensible categories, most of what they need is the same. The rest of it is up to front-end staff—doctors, nurses, hospital receptionists are all part of the equation.
Given a big part of customer centricity is customer empowerment, it would be useful to understand healthcare consumers in segments that are separated by degree of personal involvement. One such distribution proposes four segments.
1. The healthy and invested patient
This type of patient is generally healthy, and is active both in lifestyle and in their approach to practising healthcare. They may use a healthcare app to keep track of their diet and fitness activities, and are likely to follow regular health screening guidelines. These are individuals who are already heavily invested in taking control of their health.
2. The healthy and distant patient
Like the previous type, this patient has little to no pressing health problems or concerns. However, their fortune with health might have imbued them with a misguided confidence they do not need to take active steps to ensure their continued well-being far into the future. Such individuals may be resistant to acquiring health insurance, and their records may reflect gaps of several years between health check-ups.
3. The ill and distant patient
This type of patient is considered most at-risk, as they are the ones who are sick but who are either unable or unwilling to get more engaged with improving their health. These individuals may have chronic illnesses whose treatment costs usually ramp up to extremely high amounts, which may further discourage them from seeking the help they need.
4. The ill and invested patient
For these patients, poor health is a motivator rather than an impediment for being ever more involved in establishing and maintaining healthy practices. This may be the result of a health scare like a heart attack, after which they choose to change certain aspects of their lifestyle in order to improve their quality of life. This works in their own favour as well as their doctors’.
Developing a customer centric service plan for healthcare
With a clear idea of what your healthcare consumer looks like, it then comes the time to ask the right questions in order to develop an effective plan that targets each of the identified segments.
These are some questions to get you started:
- What is the experience each type of patient goes through? What does that experience do to their physical and mental well-being?
- Do you understand the needs of each patient type, and what drives them away?
- Do you meet patients’ expectations? How would they rate their experience? Compare this with how you would rate their experience. Then confront any areas of dissonance.
- Do you have dedicated avenues for feedback? How do you respond to collected feedback?
By asking these questions and prioritising customer centricity, the operating DNA of healthcare providers will be put under scrutiny. That can only lead to good things, for both these earnest medical professionals and the people they serve.
To be customer centric in healthcare is to put the people first. It is a process that puts money matters second and the patient in front. Inputting the voice of the customer is undoubtedly challenging. However, it will prove ultimately revolutionary in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare as a whole. In this framework, receiving complaints is a gift; a radical call to be better.
And you can start just from hospital lobbies too. What is the experience for a patient who first enters the premises seeking help? If they get admitted, how easy is it for their loved ones to visit them?
Zipline’s expertise extracts the voice of the customer with dedication and accuracy. With visitor management strategies and feedback channels, let us help you answer the critical questions and turn your detractors into advocates.
About the author
Other than for work, Marielle loves writing for fun (fantasy fiction is her not-so-secret mistress). She is also an intense Broadway and Disney geek and sometimes sings professionally.