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A recent study from GE Healthcare Camden Group found that 81 percent of consumers are unsatisfied with their health care experience. “The power has shifted to the consumer in nearly every industry—transportation, retail, and financial services,” the study points out. “Finally, it is health care’s turn.”

This shift in health care—what many experts have dubbed the ‘retailization’ of the industry—was a hot topic at the recent Customer Intelligence Summit in Chicago. During a breakout session, Misti Allison, senior market research analyst at Cleveland Clinic, and Kay Schmitt, director of market research at HealthPartners, revealed how their organizations are adapting to the industry’s move towards consumerism.

Their presentations provide valuable insight on the empowered health care consumer. Here are three facts (and one myth) about today’s health care consumers, according to Allison and Schmitt.

Fact: Empowered patients want to be heard. 

HealthPartners is a non-profit, award-winning integrated health care organization that provides medical and dental plans, clinics, hospitals and pharmacy services. To adapt to industry changes, the Minnesota-based organization recently looked for more authentic and meaningful ways of listening to patients and health plan members. HealthPartners also wanted to eliminate barriers to obtaining customer insight.

The solution, according to Schmitt, was to launch myVoice, HealthPartner’s insight community of more than 1,000 patients and health plan members. Since the community’s launch in February 2016, HealthPartners saw immediate business impact and found that people are enthusiastic about sharing their feedback. HealthPartners regularly receives meaningful and thoughtful comments, which help Schmitt and her team understand nuances in consumer attitudes and behaviors.

The insight community’s high response rate of 61 percent shows that health care consumers want to be heard. That high level of engagement demonstrates that patients and members will provide honest feedback when given the platform to do so.

The insight community’s high response rate of 61 percent shows that health care consumers want to be heard.

Given the enthusiasm of consumers to participate, Schmitt encouraged researchers at the breakout session to continuously promote their insight communities in their organization. She suggested working with teams that don’t normally have market research budget to elevate the profile of your insight community.

Fact: Health care consumers expect a seamless patient experience.

Founded in 1921, Cleveland Clinic is now the second largest employer in the state of Ohio with almost 50,000 employees, which they call caregivers. In 2015 alone, the physician-led multispecialty academic medical center provided patient care in the form of almost seven million visits in its 150+ locations throughout Northeast Ohio, Florida, Las Vegas, Canada and Abu Dhabi. Cleveland Clinic is the #2 hospital in the US and has been ranked #1 in heart care for 22 straight years as deemed by US News and World Report.

Cleveland Clinic’s success is in no small part due to its commitment to putting patients first. A pioneer in patient experience, Cleveland Clinic is the first healthcare organization in the U.S. to the first to make patient experience a strategic goal, hire a Chief Experience Officer and open an Office of Patient Experience.

Launched in 2008, Cleveland Clinic’s award-winning insight community, the Cleveland Clinic Patient Panel, enables the organization to engage with 5,000 members on an ongoing basis. According to Allison, the community has been instrumental in the organization’s efforts to make the patient experience a strategic priority.

"Our community provides insight and intelligence about everything that impacts the patient journey."

The Patient Panel’s members have participated in over 100 studies on a range of subjects that impact patient experience. Explains Allison, “Our community provides insight and intelligence about everything that impacts the patient journey from the artwork on the walls, the food in the cafeteria, construction design of rooms, messages in marketing materials, and interactions with nurses, doctors and other staff.”

Fact: Consumer needs continue to change.

To remain competitive, health care organizations need to keep up with evolving consumer demands. Getting timely and accurate customer insight is key.

Cleveland Clinic, aware of the need to evolve its services for the busy consumer, recently tapped its insight community. Allison and her team asked patients to rate their satisfaction on the available appointment times at Cleveland Clinic. While dissatisfaction with appointment times was not necessarily high, Cleveland Clinic definitely knew that there were opportunities to enhance satisfaction.

Community members identified specific drivers of dissatisfaction: long wait times, not being able to get appointments with their preferred physicians and a desire for more appointments later in the day. With that insight in mind, Cleveland Clinic increased appointment times for key services throughout the enterprise. This included included adding 'non-traditional' appointment times such as weekend, evening and early morning appointments. The organization also increased patient access points, including emergency and urgent care departments, online appointments and same-day appointments.

To raise awareness of these additional services, Allison and her team engaged the community once again to optimize how these access points are communicated to consumers. Feedback from patients clearly showed that the organization should use the term ‘Express’ in its naming convention and that messaging of services should boil down to three simple calls to action. Cleveland Clinic also used consumer insight to inform a 60-second spot created to promote enhancements to its services.

By engaging with patients and finding out about their changing needs, Cleveland Clinic saw an increase in its unique patient visits, new patients and direct website visits for its access campaign.

Says Allison, “Our insight community enables us to generate insight at the speed of business, connects us to trusted advisors to talk about intimate topics, and we can find people who have had specific experiences or interactions and ask them exactly what they think.”

Myth: Health care consumers don’t care about design.

It’s time for health care organizations to worry more about design and ease of use. That’s something that HealthPartners found out, when it engaged its insight community to get feedback on the redesign of its ‘Explanation of Benefits’ document. More than 12 million copies of this document go out to plan members, so HealthPartners wanted to get the redesign right.

According to Schmitt, members of the myVoice community eagerly participated in the study, with many people expressing strong opinions about the design concepts presented to them. Direct feedback from consumers helped settle internal debates and validated the new approach. Member feedback also identified opportunities for improvement, including the need to clarify terms in the document.

As this study showed, health care consumers do care about design—especially if it impacts their experience. Members of the leadership team at HealthPartners were impressed by the depth and speed of the insights, according to Schmitt.

Keeping up with the empowered health care consumer

The biggest takeaway from Schmitt and Allison is that empowered patients and health plan members expect authentic, ongoing engagement. A consumer-centric mindset needs to permeate the entire organization.

At a time when patients and health plan members are demanding better services from health care providers and plans, organizations need to prioritize patient and member engagement. As both HealthPartners and Cleveland Clinic demonstrate, deep patient insight is key to surviving health care’s transformation into a consumer-led industry.

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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