Just as a Starbucks patron has a unique brand experience with their local Starbucks, a patient will have a unique patient experience with a hospital or family physician. The patient experience has become a coined term for many medical organizations seeking to improve their overall brand image. Healthcare marketing success is based on the principle of brand growth and increasing brand equity for physicians, specialists and hospitals. But with the intentions behind the Pay-for-Performance measure in the Affordable Care Act, the patient experience becomes more than simply a coined phrase but a way to secure funding.
What is the Patient Experience?
Defining the patient experience depends on who you ask. Physicians might point out the effectiveness of medical treatment, surgery or recovery, while the patient might point to the kindness of the staff, the availability of the physicians, the promptness of the location, or how accessible they were.
According to the Gallup Business Journal, 2009 HealthLeaders Media Patient Experience Leadership Survey -- covering more than 200 healthcare CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CNOs, directors, senior vice presidents, and other high-ranking healthcare officials – found that when it comes to defining the patient experience, there are widely divergent views within the healthcare industry: 34.5% agreed that the patient experience equals "patient-centered care," 29% agreed it was "an orchestrated set of activities that is meaningfully customized for each patient," and 23% said it involved "providing excellent customer service." The rest agreed that the patient experience meant "creating a healing environment," was "consistent with what's measured by HCAHPS," or was something "other" than the options provided in the survey.
Because there is so much confusion as to what defines the patient experience, healthcare marketing firms must meet this need with tenacity and precision. The Affordable Care Act will be implementing the Pay-for-Performance measure based on the patient experience, partly on patient satisfaction survey results that will conclude whether a hospital meets high performance standards or not. Based on the results, a hospital’s budget could be greatly affected, both positively and negatively. So, whether the physician and patient agrees on a definition of the patient experience or not, hospitals are required to provide a better experience overall.
How to Improve the Patient Experience
Research has shown that, while improving the patient experience can be difficult in an industry that depends on medical outcomes, an emotional connection to the staff, physicians or hospital itself can make a big different in the overall patient experience. The same elements that create a brand advocate for a business, which depends on the customer experience, are the same elements that create a brand advocate for a hospital: consistent brand messaging, transparency, credibility, and trust.
• Brand Message – Just as a company must adhere to it’s brand message at all times, and in all forms of marketing and advertising, so too must a hospital or local physician. From the sign out front to the décor inside, from the billboard across the street to the flyers in the offices, and from the staff at the front desk to the physician who treats the patients, every single aspect of the practice must be in line with the overall brand message. Consistency in all forms of business, whether it’s healthcare marketing success of managing a local cupcake bakery, is paramount. Consistency breeds trust, which creates brand advocates and patient who will not only stay with your throughout the years, but will refer you to friends and family.
• Transparency – This plays into the idea of trust and brand messaging. Be honest and genuine with your patients at all times. Your goal is to improve the patient experience not just for the new government regulations, but for the continued success of your practice. If you received a poor review on Healthgrades, Yelp or Facebook, face it and whatever you do don’t ignore or delete it. Transparency involves facing all aspects of the great moments as well as the poor ones. Handling these moments with respect and compassion can do wonders for your brand.
• Credibility – Patients want to know they are seeing the best. They want to be absolutely sure that their family members are getting the best care possible. As you establish your credibility over time, patients will come to understand that your practice is the best. Building credibility begins with compassion towards patients. It continues with successful healthcare marketing to establish your practice as the premier resource for specific medical care. And, in reality, it never ends.
• Trust – When you have established trust with your patients, the overall patient experience will improve dramatically. When patients trust that they are receiving the best care, when they can emotionally connect to your brand on all levels, share experiences on social communities and find the answers they need through your resources, your goal is achieved.
Healthcare marketing success leans on improving the patient experience. It’s time to began integrating these healthcare marketing techniques into your overall plan. Call Quaintise for more information.