As someone who flies almost every week, I have definite preferences when it comes to airlines. While I do choose flights based on time of day and number of stops, when I have options, the #1 driver of which flight to take is the airline itself. I have clear favorites. And it’s not because of any points programs. It’s the way they treat me when I fly.
My favorite airlines make me feel like a valued customer. They make booking simple, they welcome me warmly when I board, they treat me with respect in the air, and they actively solicit my feedback when the trip is done. I feel like they care about me—that they value my business. They don’t just solve my problem (i.e., getting where I need to go), but they know I have a choice each and every time I fly, and they want to earn my loyalty.
Consumer trends and the healthcare experience
Press Ganey data shows us that patients choose healthcare like they choose any other service, “shopping around” until they find the right fit. We all want care that’s simple and easy to access; we want to feel respected and heard; we want to be treated kindly—especially when we’re vulnerable and in need. And critically, we want to trust in the care provided, no matter what.
For consumers and patients (i.e., humans), their healthcare journey doesn’t begin and end with a doctor’s visit. Just like when we fly, the healthcare journey starts with online search and consists of every interaction along the way. People think about the totality of their health and care trajectory: from the time they identify a need, to finding the right provider, to accessing care in a timely fashion, to getting coordinated follow-up testing and treatment, all the way through billing and insurance claims. For leaders in the healthcare industry, this means we must focus on the end-to-end experience, and view healthcare as a continuous journey that’s more than the sum of its parts.
Yet, in my experience across healthcare organizations, we laser-focus on improving discrete steps in the journey: the visit in front of us, not the entire value chain. Physicians and medical practices get online reviews or scores based on surveys, but a single number is a blunt tool, often measuring only one piece. For example, a patient may have tried to book an appointment online for a Tuesday. Instead, they got frustrated because they had to call, sit on hold for an hour, and wait for an appointment on Thursday—when they’re scheduled to work. A low patient experience score could reflect friction in access, not poor bedside manner or an unsatisfactory clinical interaction.
Clinicians understand that the right diagnosis is essential to the right treatment. Improving scores in medical practice (and for the health plans that contract with them) requires understanding if the opportunity to improve is in finding a doctor, seeing the doctor, or liking the doctor. And, if the care requires a next step, it can also depend on how simple and coordinated the handoff is.
Friction anywhere on the journey not only results in lower patient satisfaction scores, but it also generates mistrust with their clinician. Patients expect their provider (and the health plans that pay them) to have their backs—to put their best interests at heart. When it’s hard to access care, that trust gets eroded. It feels less likely the doctor will be there for them when needed.
At Press Ganey, we believe it’s essential to map the entire patient journey. By understanding the touchpoints across the end-to-end experience of healthcare, we make the friction visible, and the diagnosis clear. Any medical practice that wants to grow and perform well on their quality incentives should identify and eliminate friction to improve patient experience. And any health plan that wants to improve their Star Ratings must partner with the medical groups they contract with to do so. Even with the reweighting of measures in the MCAHPS survey, 56% of Star Ratings are affected by the experience of care in the clinician’s office. It isn’t feasible to hit a 4-star (or above) rating without a focus on what happens in the physician’s office.
Patient and consumer trust in healthcare
Trust in healthcare is at an all-time low. Medical practices are still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic, and buffeted by the ever-increasing consumer demands in this AI-enabled information age. In our post-pandemic world, we are used to getting our needs met on our own terms—when, where, and how we want. While healthcare was once considered a trusted island, that social contract has been disrupted. But organizations that solve for navigation, access, and experience—across the journey of care—can not only earn the trust and gratitude of the patients they care for, but they’ll also grow and thrive.
Since making patients’ lives better is why most of us in healthcare get out of bed in the morning, we bring out the best in our people by hardwiring kindness into everything we do. It’s not often that we have win–win–win strategies. But, by focusing on the Human Experience of care, we have happier patients, happier staff, improved revenue, and better organic growth.
By basing actions on data and insights, organizations can design the right processes and help healthcare workers successfully deliver on their vocation. We want our organizations to make sure all people feel respected, valued, and cared for. These organizations should be like the good airlines—the ones that prioritize the customer experience, so people intentionally seek them out.
We all want to be on the winning team. And leading with experience is like playing "moneyball”—that is, we make decisions based on hard data and analytics. Using data illuminates the path to what’s possible: a healthcare system we’re proud to call our own.
To learn more about how Press Ganey can help your practice or health plan identify and remove friction in care, reach out to our team.