An excellent article in Healthcare Marketing Report (12/2012) , written by Richard L. Cohen, summed up “patient experience” as the “great new buzz phrase in healthcare the past few years.” He further stated that “patient experience is a key element in the competitive landscape as well as becoming imperative in HCAHPS and in value-based purchasing.”
In another article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (12/26/2012), written by Matthew Manary, M.S.E., William Boulding, PhD., Richard Staelin, PhD., and Seth W. Glickman, M.D., M.B.A., the authors outline the difficulties in measuring patient experience. They also relate their information to HCAHPS, and the likeness and differences to patient satisfaction.
Besides exploring the professional literature, one cannot help but observe the enormous impact the internet and all of the apps that are available to the public. In addition, magazines are writing about everything related to healthcare. The 8/2012 issue of Consumer Reports had an article on “How Safe Is Your Hospital?” The article rated 1,159 hospitals in four categories (SMMC was included.). It now becomes very clear that the scope of patient experience is far greater than in the past. Patients can be much more informed about healthcare and what they should expect from their healthcare providers. It also means that we, in healthcare, need to be keen listeners to patients so that we understand what is important to them. Let me share with you a fictitious story of patient experience that’s based on medical fact.
Patient X suffers from coronary heart disease. He has been in contact with Dr. William Cohn, M.D., director of minimally invasive surgical technology, at the Texas Heart Institute, in Houston. The patient has been reading about the new artificial heart, called a beatless heart, that pushes blood through the body at a steady rate. The device has no valves, flexible components or complex machinery. It has only two moving parts and because it’s a continuous flow, there’s no pulse. Patient X realizes that it’s still in the experimental phase, but there is hope for FDA approval in several years. One thing the patient currently uses is the Healthy Heart 2 (free) app. It measures blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol, blood glucose, potassium and meds. Data can be saved for backup, analysis and sharing with his doctors and family members. All of this means that the evolving patient experience using mobile apps will become the new norm. According to ABI Research ( Forbes, 6/4/2012), the market for mobile health apps will quadruple to $400 million by 2016.
Every patient has their own personal story filled with drama that at times involves life and death. Fears are present, no matter what your educational level. Perhaps surprising was the finding from patient surveys done by Colleen Sweeney, founder and owner of Tampa, FL based Sweeney Healthcare Enterprises, that getting an infection while in the hospital was the number one fear of patients. The next four fears in descending order were as follows: Incompetence, Death, Cost, and Medical Mix-ups.
In summary, patient experience starts before the patient enters the front door. The rapidly growing internet and mobile apps for healthcare are greatly changing the whole arena of patient experience. Patients are being more proactive in their healthcare. This will motivate healthcare providers to give high quality care if they are to be competitive.
John Haynes, MS, MBA, is a retired school psychologist and a current volunteer at Shawnee Mission Medical Center (SMMC). He served as a Hospital Corpsman at the US Naval Academy and served on the USS Sanctuary Hospital ship in Vietnam. In addition to his volunteer work at SMMC, he's actively involved in the community through the Shawnee Kiwanis Club and the Kansas Trails Council. His interests vary from backpacking and mountain biking to investment analysis and business management. He and his wife have two sons.