Healthcare Needs a Customer Experience Strategy, Too: The Importance of Patient Experience

A doctor holds the hand of her patient

Customer experience programs aren’t just for the world of retail, hospitality, and entertainment. When medical providers and systems recognize the importance of customer experience in healthcare and put patient experience best practices into place, patients, employees, and businesses stand to benefit. 

That’s why establishing a modern patient experience strategy is a competitive advantage for healthcare organizations.

Why does having a patient experience strategy matter?

Positive patient experiences are fundamental to ensuring positive health outcomes, yet too often patients and caregivers encounter points of friction along their journeys — such as delays and other broken experiences that prevent them from making appointments and getting help in a timely manner. 

When patient experience suffers, that can take a financial toll on healthcare systems, not only from the loss of patient loyalty and declines in referrals, but government support as well. When quality of care is in question, healthcare systems won’t achieve the same levels of reimbursements from the government they would otherwise be able to secure. 

It’s up to leaders at the helm of every healthcare organization to identify and remove these barriers for patients and families, giving them access to the timely, quality care they need.

Beyond enhancing the well-being of patients and their loved ones, well-designed patient experience programs can also improve a number of other important outcomes, including boosting patient trust. When effective patient experience strategies are put into practice, organizations should see identified measures of NPS, overall satisfaction, and other identified measures take off.

What we’ve found is that it’s through these experiences that providers are truly laying the foundation for forging connections. Ultimately, these interactions can positively influence the patient’s adherence to treatment guidelines, which in turn promotes better health outcomes.

The impact of customer experience in healthcare

When organizations lack formal, effective patient experience programs, one of the biggest pain points that can result is limited access to care for patients and families. Basic, everyday patient and caregiver interactions with the system, such as getting answers to simple health questions or filling a prescription, can require jumping through challenging hoops. 

These points of friction aren’t ideal for the patient or the organization, and can ultimately harm profits, patient outcomes, and customer loyalty and retention. 

6 steps to building an effective patient experience strategy

Crucial to any patient experience strategy and program is incorporating the voice of the patient. This involves truly listening to and hearing from both patients themselves, as well as their caregivers, to understand their greatest wants and needs in their own words. It’s critical that healthcare organizations understand what they’re doing well and what needs to change — what barriers need to be removed — to improve the patient experience.

As organizations begin the process of creating a formal patient experience program, here are the most important steps to take: 

Step #1: Define what patient experience means for your organization.

Step #2: Create a multidisciplinary customer experience team. Ensure patient experience is a collaborative effort that works across disciplines, including marketing, providers, and the C-suite.

Step #3: Capture the voice of the patient and caregivers using a combination of surveys and other types of customer experience signals and feedback. Listen across the entire patient and caregiver journey.

Step #4: Empower all staff to quickly close the loop with patients, using this data collection to:

  • Provide a holistic view of the entire patient journey
  • Alert the appropriate caregiver(s) and prompt them to take the right action at the right time
  • Give leaders visibility across the organization to identify and prioritize investment opportunities and drive systemic change and innovation

Step #5: Develop and test a limited number of hypotheses of potential changes that can be introduced to improve patient experience outcomes. Collect customer experience data in real time to see whether these changes are having the desired impact.

Step #6: Continue experimenting, learning, and iterating to improve patient experience across every aspect of the organization. Based on your analysis, determine whether changes you’ve tested out should be replicated in the future and across the healthcare system.

What are some important patient experience program outcomes?

When healthcare systems prioritize efforts that move the needle on patient experience, they should see gains in NPS, or the likelihood to recommend, and metrics related to patients feeling like they’re being treated with courtesy and respect. At the same time, they should also see reductions in the cost of providing care.

Ultimately, the greatest success is being able to incorporate the patient and caregiver voice into every aspect of the organization and find ways to improve every patient and caregiver touchpoint, whether that’s with your system’s facilities, digital experiences, billing department, or direct patient care interactions.

Want more insights on the importance of customer experience in healthcare and ideas for building a patient experience program? Download Medallia’s guide, Ready, Set, Go: How to Launch a Customer Experience Program, packed with advice from our customer experience experts with real-world experience building customer experience teams at top organizations across retail, healthcare, financial services, and the public sector.