Patient Experience in Healthcare: A Checkup to Deliver Better Experiences

A doctor sits down with her patient and uses a tablet to present important healthcare information.

In this Q&A with Toni Land, Head of Clinical Healthcare Experience at Medallia, she reveals the top challenges facing healthcare organizations today, and what leaders should prioritize.

Having spent more than 30 years in healthcare, across nursing and management, Toni Land now serves as Head of Clinical Healthcare Experience at Medallia, where she advises leaders and innovators in healthcare on the best ways to drive change within the industry, improve patient engagement, and elevate both employee and patient experiences. 

Between the pandemic and Great Resignation, delivering exceptional patient experiences and ensuring strong employee engagement are both top of mind for leaders across the healthcare industry. With this in mind, we recently sat down with Toni Land to shed light on how organizations can turn today’s top challenges into opportunities, which KPIs matter most for healthcare experiences, and what healthcare patient experience leaders and employee experience leaders are doing to set themselves apart in the industry.

Can you tell us about your journey to improving experiences in healthcare?

I’m a nurse by trade, with over 33 years of experience in the profession. But when I think about how I got here, my journey began with my earliest childhood experiences. I was raised by my great grandma and great aunt, one who was a very fragile patient with diabetes, and the other who was living with agoraphobia and severe depression. 

That upbringing really put me in a caregiving role fairly early on in my life. That’s what drives me and that’s what I’m passionate about — really making a difference for people and empowering people to be their best selves. For me that all goes back to fostering trust in relationships, forging patient loyalty, and boosting compliance to ultimately improve outcomes.

And at the heart of all of that is patient experience and team member experience. Do they trust us? Do they feel like we as leaders genuinely care?

When we generate trust, that’s when we start to see the tide turn and patients, families, and team members truly engage with us and we start to see better health outcomes — not only in our present moment, but for future generations to come.

What are some of the top forces driving change within the healthcare industry?

The pandemic has shifted healthcare into necessary, quick change and proven to us that we can change. As we advance into year three of the pandemic, we’re being presented with the opportunity to think through what comes next. We’ve adapted and rolled out new services and practices, so the question is: What do we continue? What do we stop? What do we modify to better meet the needs of the team members, patients, and families? What do we do to meet team members’ and patients’ needs? What will help us retain team members and encourage team members to work at our organizations? What will encourage families and patients to remain loyal to our organizations? 

The Great Resignation has definitely shaken the foundation of healthcare employee retention. We’ve seen so many shift roles or organizations, or leave the industry altogether. That reality is forcing us within healthcare to rethink care delivery models and how to create better experiences for our employees and patients. 

What are the top challenges and priorities for healthcare leaders right now?

The number one challenge is team member engagement and retention. For organizations looking to turn this into an opportunity, the best way to get started is to become more present than ever, to get better at capturing the voice of the employee and acting on those insights uncovered to increase retention.

The next biggest challenge? Regaining the trust of the public — patients, families, and the communities the organization serves — to increase loyalty and health outcomes for patients. As with driving employee engagement, this comes down to being present and actively listening to what these key stakeholders are experiencing. To do that, leaders need to expand the types of feedback they collect and the way they gather insights, using a combination of methods such as text messages, QR codes, email, video, and patient and family advisory committees to ensure individuals are given the opportunity to have their voices heard. 

All of this ties into the other top areas where healthcare leaders are struggling — ensuring quality of care, increasing patient compliance, and improving equitable care. By gathering patient, caregiver, and community insights and taking action in a timely manner, healthcare organizations stand to achieve gains in all three of these aspects.

What are companies doing to improve the employee experience in healthcare?

Many are investing in resources that will enable them to create an environment where employees want to stay and where new workers will want to come. One important area is investing in technologies that enable organizations to de-silo their experience data by bringing together employee and patient data from across sets, including operational data, team member engagement and retention data, and patient experience data. This is enabling organizations to connect the dots and track how metrics like employee retention may be impacting patient experience. 

Which KPIs matter the most for both employee and patient experience?

From an employee experience perspective, organizations should be looking at retention and turnover rates and how long employees are staying within a given role before churning. That data can become actionable, guiding leaders on the right time to intervene to minimize disengagement. 

From a patient experience point of view, organizations have traditionally relied on lagging metrics like trust, loyalty, NPS, and overall satisfaction. More advanced organizations, however, are paying attention to more actionable measures where they can create change and put behaviors in place that will really make a difference. To do that, innovators are using short, real-time feedback channels to ask questions like, “Do you feel heard as a patient?”

These questions should be based on the organization’s culture and on desired behaviors they want to achieve. For instance, since we know that when caregivers sit down with patients, that can have a positive impact, a healthcare provider could follow up with a short text or email prompt asking, “Did your caregiver provider sit down while reviewing your discharge instructions with you?”

Once organizations get these kinds of real-time insights, they will have enough data to know whether a desired behavior is happening, and if so, if that behavior is producing the desired results. 

What are healthcare leaders doing to stay ahead in 2022?

Leaders are moving ahead by ensuring they’re present, by demonstrating a high level of emotional intelligence, and by being vulnerable enough to allow patients, families, and team members to open up and share their experiences. Leaders do not necessarily have to have a lived experience in common with their patients or people, but they do need to be willing to lean in and embrace change. 

What’s the #1 thing organizations can do to deliver better experiences faster?

It’s easy to get stuck doing things the way things have always been done, but now, more than ever, is the time to really evaluate processes that have been put in place and determine if these efforts are delivering the desired results.

Organizations have to take a stand on what aligns with their mission, vision, and values and push back on anyone or anything that’s not in alignment with these goals. That’s a hard line to take. We’re often used to doing things a certain way, but we have to really evaluate whether those ways of doing things are to the benefit of our people and patients and be willing to lean in and embrace the possibilities of the impact of doing something different.

Want expert advice for building a patient experience program? Download Medallia’s guide, Ready, Set, Go: How to Launch a Customer Experience Program