Tech’s Evolving Role in a Consumer-Driven Healthcare Industry

It wasn’t long ago that service industries – including the healthcare industry – treated customer (or patient) satisfaction, employee engagement and staff scheduling as unrelated entities. Each fell under the auspices of a different department and was managed and analyzed independently of the others.

Recently, however, certain industries within the service sector — hospitality, for one — have significantly matured in their understanding of the interdependence of these three areas. And they’re harnessing technological tools that simplify complex scheduling, connect employee engagement to customer satisfaction and intent to return and recommend and, ultimately, drive business results.

As consumerism continues to gain a foothold in healthcare, it is increasingly important for hospitals to take a similar approach. Patients are sharing experiences in real time via social media, reaching audiences with perceptions that can help make or break a business. An August 2015 McKinsey & Company article, “Measuring the patient experience: Lessons from other industries,” reveals the top factors patients cite as impacting their satisfaction with inpatient providers.

  • Nurse empathy* 62%
  • Keeping patient informed 62%
  • Doctor empathy* 59%
  • Procedure/care outcome 58%
  • Room cleanliness* 57%
  • Room appearance 54%
  • Quiet environment* 53%
  • Administrative simplicity 53%
  • Single point of contact 53%
  • Facilities 53%
  • Value for money 52%

*included in HCAHPS

It’s interesting to note that only four of these factors are measured by the mandatory HCAHPS. This means that providers who rely on HCAHPS for insights into patient satisfaction, particularly if they seek to use those insights to impact business performance, are working with incomplete information.

Health systems would do well to take a page from their hospitality counterparts, who are increasingly embracing high-tech solutions to:

  1. Measure and improve customer satisfaction. Hospital systems should look for survey solutions that track every aspect of patient satisfaction, prioritize the issues that are most vital to their patients, identify revenue at risk, and let them respond quickly to feedback to positively impact perceptions and improve intent to return and recommend.
  2. Measure and increase employee engagement. Web-based surveys and reports enable organizations to monitor engagement throughout the year, then quickly identify and target opportunities to improve attitudes and reduce turnover. Engaged workers provider better service, which translates into greater patient satisfaction. (And if there’s any doubt, note that the top three patient satisfaction factors in the McKinsey & Company study relate to patient/staff interactions.)
  3. Optimize staff scheduling. A good automated system simplifies scheduling for even the most complex organizations, making sure the right workers are in the right place at the right time. Instant notifications via mobile app help managers adjust staffing to real-time demands and provide workers with more shift flexibility. The result? Lower labor costs, improved engagement, higher patient satisfaction and greater ROI.

What’s more, the analytics these solutions provide can help hospital systems connect the dots between patient satisfaction, employee engagement and business results. That’s the kind of valuable intelligence that prompted UniFocus, a hospitality industry leader in workforce performance technology, to retool its own employee engagement and customer satisfaction surveys in recent years to provide a full-circle perspective on the employee-customer relationship.

Applied to the healthcare industry, such tools could help hospitals assess critical business issues, including:

  • How does employee engagement correlate with patient loyalty?
  • Are training and other efforts to improve engagement leading to improved patient satisfaction?
  • What impact does the patient satisfaction level have on revenues?

Gaining the answers to these and other vital questions can give hospitals the competitive advantage they need in an increasingly consumer-driven marketplace.