by Noel Coleman
Every day, the country is pushing toward the triple aim of improving population health, reducing costs, and enhancing the patient experience. And we’re all thinking about how we can contribute to the movement. But while the speed of change seems to be at epic levels, a recent article in JAMA pointed out we can drive this change much faster if we design our systems correctly. The authors point out eight design principles to achieve this goal. The first three principles have some interesting connotations for healthcare marketing and patient experience teams. They are:
- Designing and encouraging systems that prepare for and embrace change, in the continuous pursuit of improvement
- Changing the balance of power, so that health and well-being can be co-produced in partnership with patients, families, and communities
- Developing and rallying morale in the healthcare workforce
Note that all three of these principles concern information and communication. We can’t have a system that embraces change and continuously improves unless useful information is effectively communicated to engaged people. If health and well-being is to be co-produced, patients, families, and communities must have access to better information. In addition, there must be feedback mechanisms in place to communicate how well the system is working. And rallying morale in the healthcare workforce? We can’t have a rally without conveying a message.
It is in gathering and strategically leveraging information that is at the core of how marketing and patient experience teams can have a real and lasting effect on the triple aim. While there are certainly many aspects to this initiative, one of the most important right now is in becoming more transparent with the public on the data health systems collect about the patient experience.
In almost every healthcare setting, patients are surveyed after interacting with providers to determine where they were satisfied with care and where they weren’t. This data is then used to judge the performance of doctors, nurses, mid-level providers, and other staff and to determine how they can improve care. Not only is there a massive amount of valuable, statistically valid data, there’s a huge opportunity to empower patient decisions, better manage physicians’ reputations, and improve care.
Marketing and patient experience teams, working together, have begun taking this patient experience data and making it transparent to the public. The results are impressive so far. Organizations have been able to capture more of their respective markets, and the risk of third-party rating sites with bad data and poor scores from small sample sizes has been diminished. Not only that, but performance by providers has improved – dramatically. We all know the Peter Drucker saying, “What gets measured gets managed.” Well, try changing that to, “What gets measured in public gets obsessively focused on!”
Of course, this kind of initiative isn’t a switch to flip on at any given moment. What’s needed is a solid communication plan and the ability to present compelling reasons as well as a phased rollout capability from small to large groups and from internal to external transparency projects. It isn’t an event. It’s a journey.
The good news is that best practices have emerged on how to achieve this change and what the process should look like. Connect Healthcare is one organization that has worked with health systems to put together processes and technology to facilitate this change. Other health systems have done the work internally.
However this initiative occurs, two things are certain:
1. Those who are excited about grabbing the potential opportunities instead of seeing the possible obstacles will reap the rewards of being first.
2. This undertaking is only the tip of the iceberg on what’s coming with the transparent and meaningful use of data in the realm of the patient experience.
Transparency has proved to be an incredible tool for improvements in other areas of healthcare. We know patient experience ties into improving quality outcomes. Maybe transparent patient experience data can become the norm for how we care for the health of people in this country.
Noel Coleman is president of Connect Healthcare, an Atlanta-based company that helps providers manage physician data, including patient experience transparency and reputation monitoring. Visit www.connecthealthcare.com.
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