by Mark Larson, Principal, Sg2, a Vizient company

In today’s marketplace, customers increasingly utilize information from other consumers to inform decisions about where to spend their money. With the proliferation of ratings features similar to those of Yelp and Amazon, one bad experience can cost an organization loyal or potential customers and damage its reputation. This is true not only for retail stores and restaurants but for health care systems as well.

Offering a superior care experience has become a foundational aspect of an effective consumerism strategy and is vital to attracting and retaining savvy health care consumers.

Meeting a variety of patients’ needs while providing convenient access to quality care require a creative approach. Gathering patient feedback and engaging the patient in the process of improving care are essential. Progressive organizations have begun employing a host of strategies to do so, including utilizing more efficient and direct patient engagement tools, implementing their own Amazon-like ratings features, and hiring chief experience officers (CXOs).

Conduct rapid-response surveys

Overall response rates for Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys can be very low, and it can take days or weeks to receive responses, preventing organizations from making improvements in real time. To tackle these limitations, many leading organizations are utilizing sophisticated data analyses and innovative applications of patient feedback.

For example, Mount Sinai’s Derald H. Ruttenberg Treatment Center in New York City utilizes a short, Web-based survey available through the RateMyHospital® platform. It sends patients leaving the treatment center a text message containing a link to a 12-question survey. As responses are gathered, the RateMyHospital application enables the center to analyze feedback data in real time and produce patient experience dashboards for longitudinal analysis. After implementation, Mount Sinai saw a 10-fold increase in patient survey responses.

Involve patients at the planning stage

Many top organizations are engaging patients as active participants in planning and improvement projects to enable continuous open-ended dialogue.

  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, obtains ongoing input on how to make care more convenient and effective via monthly focus groups of 10 to 12 patients, as well as online focus groups that include physicians and other stakeholders
  • UW Health in Wisconsin also has established a patient advisory council, whose input was integral during the design of its new 500,000-square-foot outpatient center
  • Bellin Hospital Green Bay, Wisconsin, includes patients in some strategic planning and hospital board meetings

Engage with patients through social media

Organizations are also engaging patients through social media and interactive tools.

  • Mayo Clinic and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, both use Twitter and Facebook to search for and respond to patient complaints. Mayo Clinic also conducts live Twitter forums and maintains private Facebook groups for specific patient populations.
  • In California, Kaiser Permanente uses interactive, “scenario-based” videos depicting patients with specific illnesses and health needs traveling through the health care system. Asking real patients to comment on these virtual scenarios has encouraged more detailed and candid feedback, some of which has factored into Kaiser’s design of new care initiatives.

Borrow user models from outside the industry

Sentara Medical Group in Norfolk, Virginia, created an online physician finder using standard satisfaction surveys to attract online shoppers in a rating system similar to Amazon’s. When potential patients search for a new physician, a collection of bios appears with the star ratings posted below the providers’ photos with links to their reviews. Blinded comments are displayed verbatim.

The numerous online reviews contributed to search engine optimization for Sentara – all of Sentara’s urgent care centers now top the search result list. The medical group exceeded its goal for new patients in 2016, and profile page traffic for Sentara providers increased significantly, with many seeing 500 percent to 700 percent increases.

Add a chief experience officer to the C-suite

To expand the concept of patient experience even further, the most advanced organizations are adding a CXO to their C-suite. The CXO is an enterprise-level executive responsible for capturing, analyzing and acting on patient feedback to improve all facets of a patient’s interaction with the health system. Although CXOs are a fairly new addition to executive teams, it is estimated that roughly 60 health care systems across the U.S. have added the position, and many more will follow suit.

The CXO position is still a new and evolving one, thus there are no blueprints for the role. They must work with service line leaders and physicians to understand how clinical care overlaps with patient satisfaction and how both can be improved simultaneously. This may involve making appointment scheduling easier and faster. It may also involve providing greater clinical follow-up with patients once they leave the hospital or improving care management of patients with chronic illnesses.

Next steps

Ultimately, there is no silver bullet, tool or strategy for obtaining meaningful patient feedback and improving patient experience. Success requires continuous engagement with patients using a variety of tactics, experimentation with new communication methods and innovative ways to synthesize feedback data. Following are some thoughts to consider when improving patient experience in your organization:

  • Focus initial feedback efforts on high-volume care settings with the greatest patient interactions, such as primary care clinics and ambulatory surgery centers. What information do you have to measure the consumer experience? Do you know consumers’ likes and dislikes? Are you looking at the information from the consumer’s perspective?
  • Engage providers in the feedback process. Consider building incentives for providers and office staff in the ambulatory setting that encourages high patient feedback rates and positive satisfaction scores.
  • Build an understanding of the ideal consumer experience based on feedback. Apply segmentation analysis to get a more refined understanding of the consumer’s perspective from different angles.
  • Expand your focus beyond episodic care to understand the chronic patient’s perspective. Patients with complex care needs have a unique perspective on the daily challenges they face and how care could be better orchestrated across settings to improve convenience.

For more information on these strategies and other solutions for improving patient experience at your organization, reach out to Sg2 at Be sure and catch the Sg2 presentation at the Vizient Clinical Connections Summit in Denver, September 12-14.

About the author. As associate vice president at Sg2, Mark leads research and development, supporting organizational transition to value-based care with a focus across the clinical enterprise. A thought leader in performance strategy for emerging workforce, consumerism and innovative care delivery models, he actively interprets industry and consumer trends, collaborates on consulting engagements and frequently presents at national industry conferences. He also routinely guides executives and strategy leaders in the application of Sg2 intelligence and analytics to develop successful performance strategies. With nearly 25 years of health care finance, operations, strategy and systems experience, Mark has successfully implemented cost-savings programs and advised senior leadership on performance strategy development efforts at more than 100 major health institutions across the country.

Sources: Sg2 Interview With Sentara Medical Group, 2016; Ellison A. Study: hospitals that deliver superior patient experience see 50% higher margins. Becker’s Hospital CFO. May 11, 2016.


Published: August 17, 2017