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The Elusive Patient Experience: Are You Wasting Money Trying to Hit the Wrong Target?

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer
emotional caring hands

It takes emotion to make an experience

We think Jennifer Robison, Senior Editor for the Gallup Management Journal, hit a timely hot button with both marketing professionals and business administrators when she wrote about healthcare organizations missing the “patient experience” target.

Her focus was primarily hospitals, but her words are just as vital to other healthcare organizations, marketing, advertising and PR executives and providers, including private practices, medical groups and clinics. Pretty much everyone in the delivery chain can relate.

In her words, “…imagine the frustration hospital leaders feel—having spent a fortune making sure the reception area is gorgeous, the logo is known all over town, and the clinical practice is top-notch—when patient loyalty scores don't improve and cash flow falters.” Ouch!

In her perspective (backed by survey data, naturally), healthcare organizations of all sorts, and hospitals in particular, assign high importance to improving “the patient experience,” but not everyone agrees what it is or what it takes.

To marketing people “the patient experience” is about branding. To the business office, it’s numbers and HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems) is the yardstick. And for everyone, particularly the patient, “let's not forget the baseline selling point: excellent medical care,” she observes.

What’s missing is connecting (engaging) on an emotional level. “Patients may like spiffy lobbies and a full roster of [healthy living] classes. But do amenities like these create the kind of patient experiences that lead to better performance outcomes for the hospital? According to Gallup's research, they won't necessarily create a lasting emotional connection with patients.”

The optimal patient experience—and we would add, the cornerstone of effective branding, marketing and advertising—is the fulfillment of four psychological elements. They are:

* Confidence reflects the belief that patients can always trust the hospital to deliver on its promises.

* Integrity reflects the belief that the hospital always treats patients fairly and will satisfactorily resolve any problems that might occur.

* Pride reflects the degree to which a patient feels good about using the hospital and about how using the hospital reflects on them.

* Passion reflects the belief that the hospital is irreplaceable and an integral part of patients' lives.

Her thoughtful article—well worth reading here—observes that well-intended healthcare marketing and hospital branding efforts will miss their target without an emotional connection. “Customer engagement is the key to developing patient relationships that are enduring and profitable.”

“Healthcare organizations that can fulfill those four emotional needs and meet patients' basic requirements for good service and medical care—and there are many that do—engage their patients,” she concludes.

And if your branding or marketing message isn’t making an emotional connection, let’s arrange a time to talk soon.

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