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Put patients first.

For many health care organizations in the U.S. today, that’s not just an aspiration—it’s imperative to thriving. As the industry experiences massive transformations, the need to put patients at the center of the business only becomes more important.

At the 2017 Customer Intelligence Summit in Washington, DC, health care organizations will share their strategies for patient-centricity. One session features Misti Allison, senior market research analyst at Cleveland Clinic. One of the largest and most respected non-profit academic medical centers in the U.S., Cleveland Clinic is an early pioneer of patient experience and it continues to innovate in this space.

We recently sat down with Misti to get her take on the current challenges in health care and how patient insight leads to breakthroughs in patient experience.

At last year’s Customer Intelligence Summit, you spoke about the consumerization of the health care industry. It’s been almost a year since—what would you say are the biggest challenges facing the industry today?

Health care is constantly changing, but the three major challenges stay the same: access, quality and cost.

The first challenge is providing health care access anywhere and anytime to satisfy the needs and expectations of patients. People don't just get sick Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., so organizations need creative solutions and cater to diverse patient needs. In the past year, Cleveland Clinic opened a new cancer center and a new regional hospital to continue meeting ever-changing patient needs. To ensure these facilities met patients’ expectations, we gathered input from our insight community and infused the voice of the patient into facility design and operations. We also implemented Express Care walk-in clinics and created the ability to book appointments online through our electronic medical record platform “My Chart.”

Virtual visits are another new access point at Cleveland Clinic. Our community provided a lot of insight into this concept. This service provides the ability to have a medical appointment through your iPhone, iPad, or laptop. Recently, I was able to use it myself, and it was fantastic! While at the Salt Lake City airport, I opened the app and was able to basically Facetime with the doctor, who diagnosed my condition and prescribed antibiotics. When I landed in Cleveland, I swung by my local pharmacy and my prescription was there ready for pickup. I got the care I needed, all from the airport terminal.

When it comes to the other two challenges—quality and cost—we've done a lot of research with our insight community on how to address both. Our focus is to put the best programs, services and processes in place to provide our patients with the highest quality at the most affordable price possible.

You’ve been working in market research for more than 5 years now. In this role, what are some of the most surprising things you’ve learned about Cleveland Clinic patients?

Members of our insight community are extremely committed. They’re passionate about improving the experience at Cleveland Clinic, and they’re eager to share their feedback. We've had our insight community for almost 10 years now, and many community members have been with us from the very beginning. They feel a strong sense of duty to provide their opinions, and our team is so grateful for the relationship that we have with these patients.

"We’ve had our insight community for almost 10 years now, and many community members have been with us from the very beginning."

These individuals take our surveys, no matter how long. They also attend in-person research activities, essentially co-creating some of our new health care facilities, and some even volunteer to be on our Patient Advisory Councils or to be filmed for our physician training videos.

I do a lot of the recruiting for the in-person research activities, and the best part of my job is when I get to meet our community members. They are incredible, highly intelligent, and heartwarming people—I get so inspired by our patients and their resilience!

"Our patients know that our leaders take their feedback seriously when making decisions, and that their participation does influence the patient experience."

Our members are also extremely honest. Sometimes our clients worry that the Patient Panel will only provide input through rose-colored glasses, but my experience shows that’s not the case. Our members regularly let us know if they don't like a concept, or if our organization has missed the mark. Our patients know that our leaders take their feedback seriously when making decisions, and that their participation does influence the patient experience—I think that is why they provide such detailed input. It’s not about getting a prize, it’s about making an impact.

How do you let your patients know that your leadership team listens to their feedback?

I am passionate about making sure that our community members know how their opinions are being used. For instance, we send a quarterly newsletter to our community members that provides high-level results of activities they participated in.

"I am passionate about making sure that our community members know how their opinions are being used."

We keep members updated when their feedback leads to direct change. For example, we've done a lot of billing statement research within the past year with our insight community. We’re planning on sending out a special edition newsletter talking about the specific changes that are going to be made to the billing statement as a direct result of patient input.

During the inception of a Patient Panel project, I always tell my clients that this is a two-way relationship. Patients will eagerly contribute their opinions and ideas, but they have an expectation that we will share exactly how their feedback is influencing decisions at Cleveland Clinic. I am very committed to ensuring our members get this information that they so strongly desire.

How do you work with your stakeholders to ensure that you are sharing back with your patients?

I set the expectations early. If stakeholders know ahead of time that they are expected to share results with your insight community, they’ll be much more open to it when you ask them for something to share.

It also helps to do some of the work yourself. For instance, if you take care of the write-ups, and all your stakeholders have to do is give their approval, they’re much more likely to be onboard with keeping community members in the loop.

Which books, if any, have had the most impact on your career?

I would have to recommend two. One of them is "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman. It’s the best book I've ever read, especially as a market researcher. It’s about taking the time to think slow, especially when your tendency is to think fast all the time. I bring that book up in staff meetings all the time.

The other book that has been pivotal in my career is "Strengths Finder 2.0" by Tom Rath. The book has an assessment that goes along with it, and it helps you identify your top five strengths. The book’s overarching idea is that you should pursue and develop your strengths rather than try to compensate for your weaknesses. It helps facilitate coaching conversations with your team to understand and build upon each other's strengths. I’ve recommended Strengths Finder to many teams at Cleveland Clinic—it is a great team builder!

This is your second time attending and speaking at the Customer Intelligence Summit. Do you have any tips for people who are going to the Summit for the first time?

My biggest tip is to keep an open mind. When I went to the Summit last year, it was eye-opening and refreshing because I was able to see how some of the biggest brands in the world are using their insight community—oftentimes very differently than us! Write your key ideas down, and share those notes with your whole team when you get back from the Summit, while it’s still fresh in your mind.

The Summit offers great opportunities to network. You can tap into the insight of smart and interesting people from different industries. I’ve kept in touch with many people I’ve met at the Summit, and we keep learning from each other. You can create and forge connections that can last a lifetime.

Thanks to Misti for sharing her insights with us. Check out the Customer Intelligence Summit website for more information on our annual Summit.

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