To deliver exemplary healthcare CX, ongoing patient experience measurement is key

David Butler | Jul 18, 2019 David Butler 07/18/19

The age of consumer-driven healthcare is upon us, ready or not. Consumers have more options and higher expectations than ever before—putting a premium on the patient experience (PX). But the healthcare industry’s process of collecting feedback on those experiences has not always adapted well to this new environment. Many providers and payers are using outdated tools and solutions—resulting in subpar service and a lack of patient loyalty.

According to Forrester, healthcare’s struggle with customer experience (CX) performance can be attributed to the industry’s complex ecosystem and a lack of actionable customer understanding. The word “actionable” is really important here. Some healthcare organizations would argue they are measuring the patient experience through their mandated CAHPS surveys, thinking that it provides sufficient data. The problem is these point-in-time paper surveys lack real-time, ongoing feedback—meaning any action taken often comes too late.

Look at it this way: if you took an x-ray of a patient’s foot and had to wait 4–8 weeks to see the results before you could act on the findings, then x-rays would not be a very effective diagnostic or monitoring tool. Wouldn’t the provider and the patient benefit from same-day or next-day results? Your PX measurement solution should do that for you. A patient has an appointment today, they complete their survey that day or the next, and the results are instantly available to everyone in the hierarchy (doctor, clinic manager, regional/group leadership).

The best way for healthcare organizations to keep their finger on the pulse of rapidly evolving patient expectations is to implement a customer experience management (CEM) program that provides ongoing, immediate feedback. Need more reasons to believe? Here are three:

1. The healthcare ecosystem can be a confusing place for patients

Whether it’s a once-a-year checkup at their doctor’s office or a longer series of visits associated with an ongoing health issue or treatment plan, a patient typically interacts with several healthcare personnel (before, during, and after their visit). Do the patient a favor by not letting much time pass between their visit and when they receive the survey invitation. This will make it easier for them to clearly recall the interaction and provide you with more accurate, detailed feedback.

Collecting real-time feedback across the continuum of care is the only way to get an accurate read on a patient’s experience and therefore know exactly which piece of the process needs to be addressed. It’s important to understand every touchpoint throughout their journey in order to drive meaningful change across the entire organization.

2. Today’s patient experience is so much more than just getting a good outcome

Outcomes absolutely matter. But patients typically assume they will receive a positive outcome from any of the providers in their consideration set. Just as people assume that most airlines will get them to their destination safely, a positive healthcare outcome is really just table stakes—you’ve got to have it just to be in the game, but it’s difficult to differentiate on it.

There are notable exceptions to this, of course, when we’re talking about patients with especially complicated or rare conditions, but those are the outliers. Patients care about how you treat them.  They care about how much time their doctor spends with them, and how she spoke to them. They care about how easy or not it was to find a parking spot. They care about how long they had to wait for their appointment. They care about the respect and kindness shown to them by your nurses. None of those are necessarily outcome-related, but they all matter a great deal in healthcare CX. 

3. Measuring + improving PX can have significant financial impact

What CMS has done with the various CAHPS programs was an important first step. It helped organizations—an entire industry, really—make the cultural pivot that was required to become more patient-focused by providing financial incentives and penalties. It helped healthcare organizations start to better understand how to connect the dots between improving the patient experience and driving financial results. But with most patients now being responsible for the first several thousand dollars of their care, that makes them their own payers for most office visits. Your incentive is to deliver a great experience to them (the ones paying the bill), not to CMS. 

As Forrester mentions in their report “Seven Ways to Optimize Healthcare CX,” customer insights and feedback help prove the value of CX to stakeholders and can assist with prioritizing investments. Whether it’s facility renovations, equipment upgrades, or staffing enhancements, stakeholders want to know where their investments will have the most impact on the business—and customer feedback can point them in the right direction.

And if your organization just happens to be interested in better financial performance, you might find it interesting that investing in the patient experience can yield higher profitability by increasing net margins, decreasing malpractice costs, and reducing employee turnover.

Healthcare organizations must evolve to modern PX measurement

As healthcare providers adjust to a new era of patient care—where consumers have more control over their healthcare dollars and decisions than ever before—the patient experience has transformed from a feel-good effort to a mandatory practice. Leading organizations are now transforming it again, moving it from a compulsory regulatory requirement to a vital component of their practice’s culture and success.

The state of PX has become critical in building a lasting competitive advantage. That’s why you have to ask the right questions and take the right actions—every single day. The best way to do that is through an insights-driven CEM program that will help you measure visit-based patient experiences to surface actionable insights that drive loyalty and improved performance.

For more on how healthcare leaders can address barriers to delivering great CX, download Forrester’s guide: Seven Ways To Deliver An Exceptional Patient Experience.


David Butler | VP, Customer Engagement–Health

Customer Experience Update