If you still think there's a secret sauce to your hospital becoming more "consumer friendly," these 5 steps are as good a place to start as any. Unfortunately, it's a little like that old Steve Martin comedy bit where he says he'll teach you how to be rich. The first step is to go find a million dollars.
The article's step 1 is realizing that "...a Medicare beneficiary with chronic conditions is different from a young mom who brings her kids in for an annual check-up." This is market segmentation for beginners, and, yes, one size decidedly does not fit all. Hospital execs would've known this long ago had they paid attention to their marketing team's advice. Better late than never, I guess.
Steps 2-5: have a strategy, metrics, a champion and resources. OK. Hard to argue with any of those.
But segmentation, metrics and bigger budgets can't overcome culture. They're important components to be sure, but insufficient without a dash of cold water to your organizational face.
My advice: begin with culture.
Broken cultures prize nothing more than stasis. Metrics proving the dysfunction won't help. Research-driven segmentation schemes will fall on deaf ears. As a lone voice, will that newly-appointed champion stick around? And how often, really, does more money cure culture? Doubtful, on all counts.
I'd submit that better first steps are honestly acknowledging that you've got work to do, that consumers are not stupid, and then challenging the culture that treats them as if they are. What do I mean? Well, when did consumers EVER win in your organization?
Name one time. Go ahead. I'll wait.
It's no accident that there's NO hospital branding itself as "the easiest with which to do business."
Name one. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Which is easier for your board to approve: a $100 million bed tower or a $1 million investment in the digital connections that your customers have come to expect from every other organization in their lives? Did you even have that conversation? Yes, you have a consumer portal but, absent Meaningful Use dollars, would you?
If your consumers wanted early morning urgent care hours and your doctors didn't want to provide them, who won? I can hear the excuses: "Well, yes, but the doctors refuse to...and we can't force them to..."
Consumer-friendly organizations don't let excuses drive the conversation.
When consumers wanted easy, convenient registration but your revenue cycle team wanted more forms, more boxes checked and increasingly complex processes, who won? More excuses: "Well, yes, but the days in AR might..."
Consumer-friendly organizations don't let AR metrics drive the conversation.
Do physician appointments run on time? Or do you explain away delays, or, worse, say nothing to an increasingly irritated waiting room? Excuse du jour: "Consumers just don't understand how difficult this scheduling thing really is. And our docs are so great you should be happy to wait..."
Consumer-friendly organizations run on time and are honest and transparent about those FEW times when they don't. Period. End of conversation.
Admit your culture has a problem. For a change, make decisions in FAVOR of consumers. Fix little problems as practice, but then fix big, difficult problems. Make things easy and fast, not complicated and failure-prone. And don't expect 5 steps to overcome 50 years of active indifference.
Alternatively, make it easy on yourself. Just change your branding to "We're no worse than anyone else." After all, brutal honesty is often the first step in cultural change.