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This article is a guest blog post from Ed Bennett, a digital strategy expert and president and CEO of Ed Bennett Consulting. To hear more insight from Ed on patient experience, watch our  webinar, Diagnosing disruptions: De-risking decisions in health care’s digital age

In the age of companies like Amazon, Airbnb and Apple, health care organizations are lagging behind other industries in customer experience. Retail, hospitality and other industries are setting a high bar, delivering innovative experiences to their customers. Consumer expectations are higher than ever, and patients won’t tolerate a subpar experience from health care providers.

To respond to increasing patient expectations, more health care organizations are looking to retail and hospitality for inspiration on how to improve the end-to-end patient experience. But the journey towards a seamless patient experience requires a long-term commitment from hospitals and other health care organizations. Band-Aid solutions won’t do because the poor patient experience plaguing the industry today is rooted in how hospitals and health organizations are structured.

If you examine the organization charts of many hospitals today, you’ll find a complicated system that has lot of overlaps. You have administration teams, different physician practices, and countless other departments. (In some cases, physicians are not employees but are independent businesses themselves, further complicating the organization chart of many hospitals.)  This behemoth, complex system is a fundamental cause of why departments don’t talk to each other and why many organizations aren’t agile enough.

"Band-Aid solutions won’t do because the poor patient experience plaguing the industry today is rooted in how hospitals and health organizations are structured."

In working with patient-centric health care organizations, I am seeing more hospitals changing their structure to deliver better, more seamless services to patients. I am hopeful that these changes will improve the patient experience—but I also recognize that transforming how organizations are organized and operated won’t happen overnight.

In many health care organizations, simplifying the organizational chart, breaking down siloes and instilling a more agile hierarchy is a long-term project. Restructuring how your organization operates is a big, continuing project, but it is also a worthwhile pursuit.

Does this mean that the patient experience can’t be improved in the meantime? Not necessarily. In fact, you can’t afford to wait. According to a recent study, 81 percent of consumers aren’t happy with their health care experience.

The time to improve is now. Here are three fundamental steps you can take to start delivering a better experience today.

Instill a culture of patient-centricity

There needs to be a general agreement among all major players in your organization that delivering patient-centric care is a priority. The leadership team must create a mandate that patient experience should come first.

Some forward-thinking organizations like the Cleveland Clinic have recently enlisted chief experience officers to make sure that someone from the leadership team is driving enterprise-wide changes. You don’t necessarily need to create this new role, but someone from your organization need to lead the charge towards patient-centricity.

Embrace transparency

I am passionate about transparency, so much so that in 2015, I created the Physician Transparency List, a free resource to encourage hospitals to publish patient comments and ratings for each physician in their organization. With 55 hospitals in the database today, the list continues to grow and now includes organizations like Children’s National, Providence Health and Advocate Health Care.

Why is transparency important in the health care industry? For one, it boosts awareness and online traffic. Organizations like the University of Utah has seen firsthand how publishing physician ratings and comments results to better search engine visibility. Google, Bing and other search engines love data, and they favor webpages that aggregate data.

More importantly, publishing physician ratings satisfies one crucial patient need. Patients want more information about doctors, but very little data is available online in a way that’s accessible and relatable. Being more transparent by showing consumer comments and ratings enables patients to decide if certain physicians are right for them. Being transparent with your patients improves their experience by giving them the information they are already seeking online to make a more informed decision about their health care.

Build your technology stack to better serve patients

Many technologies exist today that promise to help organizations improve their KPIs. From online portals that give patients real-time and on-demand access to their own health care information, to apps that make booking appointments easier, more and more technologies are entering the health care business.

Sifting through these tools and identifying which ones will move the needle, however, isn’t easy. So how do you make the decision on which technologies to invest in?

My advice to my clients is to be clear with your goals. Also, determine a realistic and objective assessment of your resources. How much money are you able to invest, and do you have the people in place who can support these technologies? There needs to be a match between what the tool can do and the resources available to you.

More importantly, your technology investments should be dictated by what your patients need and want. What kinds of experiences are consumers looking for? Where are the biggest pain points in the patient journey? Without engaging with your patients directly and building a closer relationship with them, it’s impossible to answer these questions accurately. To be truly patient-centric, health care organizations need to invest in an ongoing dialogue with their patients—and that needs to start today.

Final thoughts

Improving patient experience is a long-term project that requires organizations to take a hard look at their structure and hierarchy. In many hospitals, this will be an expensive and risky undertaking. The organizations that create the right culture and invest in technologies that prioritize the voice of their patients will on their path to recovery.

Diagnosing Disruptions: De-Risking Decisions in Health Care’s Digital Age

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