Rather than focusing on customer service or the customer experience, healthcare professionals appropriately concentrate on their patients’ experience. Creating a positive experience goes beyond meeting a certain standard of medical care—it has to do with the entire patient journey, from the first person patients have an interaction with to the very last (and we’re not just talking about medical staff here). Now more than ever, this has become particularly important to healthcare organizations, because patients have more choice and the ability to shop around for their healthcare providers.
In addition, healthcare professionals face challenges beyond the typical customer-provider relationship, because they must adeptly handle sensitive information, physical examinations, and the expected emotional stress that patients feel. Shifting your organization to a patient-centric mindset can help address those challenges and ensure that the entire patient experience is a positive one.
What Is Patient Centricity?
Patient centricity is about more than customer service training—it’s about behaviors. You more than likely already have programs in place that teach employees skills such as how to maintain a positive attitude with patients, handle billing disputes, and so on. To go one step further, consider whether every employee personally understands and believes the power they have to influence the patient experience. What your employees believe will inform their behaviors, and ultimately, the patient experience.
When an organization commits to a culture of patient centricity, the culture must be implemented at every level, especially with those not directly interacting with patients as they be most unclear about their effect on the patient. Creating a patient-centric culture requires every person in the organization to approach every decision with the mindset of “how will this impact the patient experience?” Not only does this make a challenging or stressful situation more positive for patients, it also leads to improved performance in patient metrics, and ultimately, a true, lasting change within the organization that inevitable efforts employee engagement and the employee experience.
5 Benefits of a Patient-Centric Culture
One of the end goals of cultivating a patient-centric culture is to improve patient satisfaction. A culture change, not just skills training, can do this, thanks to:
1. Better Communication
Patients and loved ones are often anxious to hear status updates throughout their journey with you. Whether the news is good or bad, the more clearly and more frequently healthcare professionals communicate, the better the experience will be for the patient. In addition to learning the skills to communicate with compassion, patient centricity also creates the impetus to be proactive about communication so that questions are answered before the patient feels the need to ask.
2. Culture Alignment
Every organization has a culture, including healthcare organizations. When all providers and support staff are on the same page about how to interact with patients in a patient-centric culture, the experience will be more consistent. Get your employees aligned around why your organization does what it does, the vision for how that is done, and the values to live by. This gives everyone a greater purpose and allows them to ensure their everyday actions support them.
3. Empathy in All Situations
Many healthcare providers are naturally skilled at expressing genuine empathy about health issues, but are not always trained to do the same about service issues. The patient experience encompasses every interaction, and when billing errors or other administrative mistakes occur, it’s important for staff—including medical staff—to respond with sensitivity and to help resolve any issues. In a patient-centric culture, employees are able to see beyond their own roles and contribute to delivering what patients need, even if it’s outside the scope of their job descriptions.
4. Employee Engagement
While it’s true that many healthcare professionals and support staff start their careers with a sincere commitment to providing excellent patient service, this can wane over time as the rigors of the job take effect. Organizations that take steps to keep employees engaged and enthusiastic about their work will benefit from the results of a good employee experience and a stronger commitment to the entire patient journey.
5. Less Burnout
Burnout is a real issue for healthcare professionals. Patient centricity encourages employees to look at the bigger picture and take the necessary steps to deliver an exceptional patient experience. Creating an environment in which employees know to look at the bigger picture when they are overwhelmed, and seek help to achieve what’s needed, will allow them to serve others better.
When you strip away the details, healthcare is a business and patients are customers. However, the practitioner-patient relationship is a complex one. Creating a culture of patient centricity is the way to achieve lasting change and the desired results, such as increased patient loyalty, more referrals, and a better return on investment.