Customer Experience versus Patient Experience

In today’s economy, there’s no question that the consumer is King. With access to an ever-growing digital marketplace, the customer has both more choices, and more information, than ever. For this reason, it should come as no surprise that a majority of companies today rank customer experience as the most exciting opportunity.

I have been doing more and more work in the area of patient experience in healthcare and been asked, repeatedly, the difference between customer experience and patient experience.

For healthcare leaders, the conversation is a little bit different. Though many organizations operate much like private businesses in other sectors, a medical professional’s bottom line is not driven by customers—but patients. As such, healthcare leaders must heed the customer experience lessons applicable to businesses from other sectors, while incorporating the key functions that ensure quality patient outcomes.

While there is certainly overlap between customer experience and patient experience, here’s the reality: we don’t shop for healthcare, or surgery, or even our annual checkups the way that we shop on Amazon. So how can healthcare professionals reframe the conversation and transform customer experience into patient experience?

Empower patients to control their outcome

Individuals dealing with a medical issue often feel out of control of their fate. This can be compounded when a doctor simply writes a prescription and sends the patient on their way. Today’s healthcare organizations must provide patients the tools to take back control. With emerging connected technology, this can range from sensors that remind patients to take their medications, to watches that help patients monitor their own biofeedback. By providing these empowering tools, patients can take back control of their own treatment to encourage and facilitate more positive outcomes.

Booked calendars are like busy signals

Customer service remains a core pillar of patient experience. But whereas customer service agents will confound customers with busy signals and call transfers, healthcare organizations have booked calendars and numerous offices to travel back and forth from. Wait times have increased 30 percent in major cities since 2014, and this trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Integration of telehealth services enables organizations to provide greater access to care, cutting times between appointments and wait times on premises, too.

The difference between customer journeys and patient journeys

The customer journey refers to the entire life cycle of a business relationship with a consumer – from the moment the first marketing material reaches them to the time the individual stops using the product or service. But when your patients are dealing with major illnesses, sometimes you need to stay focused on the journey at hand. For some patients—especially those with limited mobility — transportation can be costly, time consuming and inconvenient. The organizations that succeed in delivering a quality patient experience will find ways to take into consideration all the journeys that patients have to take — whether to a doctor’s office or to the grocery store. Better yet will be those that can bring the journey to the patient without them having to leave the house.

There are definitely nuances in comparing customer experience and patient experience, but it all starts by looking at the relationship you have/develop with your customer/patient from THEIR perspective not YOURS. See the world through your “customer’s” eyes and you will see the way your customer buys!

One Response to “Customer Experience versus Patient Experience”

  1. Louise Kurzeka says:

    Hello Jeff, Your article is very timely as I have spent a great time of time interacting with the heathcare system for the past six weeks due to a new medical condition. I am in the Minneapolis area of Minnesota and other than a check up or occasional malady haven’t had much contact with my providers over quite a few years. I agree with your observation that when a patient has a serious condition/diagnosis they can feel powerless over their circumstance, especially while waiting for a diagnosis. A feature that my health care provider, Park Nicollet/Health Partners (also connected to my local hospital – Methodist Hospital) is online access to a platform called My Chart. I not only can schedule appts and review the history, med notes and follow up recommendations of each encounter, it also gives me access to test results and notes on the results even before I receive a follow up call from the clinic nurse to discuss the results. This has allowed me time to process the information and educate myself with some online resources so I can be prepared with questions when that phone call happens. This interactive feature of my care supports what you are describing in the article to an even greater degree. And in our ever aging senior and baby boomer populations, I can see more and more family members sitting with “the patient” reviewing the same info so they can be a good advocate for their loved one in working the recommended course of action. Overall I have been very impressed with how I have been treated across the board by so many different individuals during this recent journey, particularly compared to my last serious condition of a broken ankle with subsequent surgery and recovery some 23 years ago. Clearly my medical provider is making it all about the patient as customer experience. Hope this example is useful to you in your work.

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