What is a Healthcare “Experience?”

22 May What is a Healthcare “Experience?”

In our line of work, it’s hard not to notice the changes to the hamster wheel of conventional healthcare practice. And it’s interesting to see how many of these “new” ideas are really just interpretations of Crossover’s intensely patient-focused, integrative and outcomes-based model.

A lot has been written about the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) or the pretty similar California-based Pay for Performance program run by the Integrated Healthcare Association. In both cases, there is a collaboration of hospitals, specialists, primary care physicians and other care providers who have entered into a contractual relationship to be responsible for a defined patient population. As generally interpreted, an ACO’s participants receive bonus payments from their payers for maintaining and improving the health of their populations, and in helping patients avoid using the more expensive parts of the system, through better care coordination and preventive care.

Smells like an HMO? Well, there’s one big difference. No patient is required to belong to an ACO, or necessarily use the services of the “medical neighborhood” the ACO has established. Putting aside any other issues within the ACO model, this creates an interesting new challenge for providers – they’re going to be rewarded for managing the health of people who don’t have to deal with them. In other words, to work as promised, an ACO is going to have to be the most attractive option for healthcare consumers.

Imagine that. A healthcare organization is going to have to be appealing. It’s going to have to put patient (i.e. consumer) needs front and center. This means more than the window dressing of a nice receptionist or well-designed web site, as great as those can be. It means digging into all the processes that impact how the patient is engaged and managed, from scheduling and communication to professional hand-offs, care transitions and billing, and then evolving these to meet and exceed the promise the ACO is making to its “consumers.”

This is what we mean when we talk about Crossover designing the patient “experience.” You bake the components of an inspiring, patient-driven experience right into the planning of healthcare and the organization of the business. Like we’ve always done, ACOs are going to have to look well outside of healthcare to see how to genuinely engage the consumer as an individual and keep them loyal.

The best retailers have been doing this for years, through everything from in-depth analytics of an individual’s buying history to the design of their bricks-and-mortar environments (if they have these). They invest in training, where people may have skills but their primary role is to make the customer experience seamless. They look to their technology, where transactions are accelerated for customers, letting staff devote more time to those parts of the relationship that the consumer values. Next time you go into Starbucks, notice how the baristas complete each others’ tasks without asking, because their training is designed to help them work together to serve the customer, not complete a task assigned just to them. That’s customer experience-based!

It’s not necessarily about nice environments or friendly service either. It’s really about designing all aspects of the experience to align with and support the specific promise of your brand. When you go to Costco, you don’t expect refined design or attentive service (and you don’t get it!), because the promise is about an efficient warehouse full of unexpected cool stuff at great prices. Costco is successful because it knows what its brand stands for, and works their systems and unique experience to support that promise. Ever notice that the huge checkout lines move faster than at any other store?

So, a few years into the ACO experiment, it will be interesting to see if the various ACOs invest the time to understand what their brand should stand for, understand the consequences of the promise and truly transform their workflows to create the experiences that deliver on the promise. Old habits are hard to change, even when your business depends on it.

Maybe they’ll look to Crossover as a healthcare experience benchmark. We have deep-seated values and a powerful brand promise, and we have been rigorously using these ideas to guide not only the design of our workflows, communication and spaces, but also how we interact with each other and our patients.

We think it’s working pretty well up to now, but you can never let your foot off the gas. The Crossover promise will always evolve as we learn more, and the experience will too. We should always be looking to see not only where we’re not meeting our commitment to inspire people and help them take ownership of their health, but also where we can make the experience and the appeal even stronger. Maybe add even a little magic. But that’s another post…

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