Are Patients Customers?

Posted on Posted in General, News

I was musing on my elevator pitch – “Best Patient Experience Consulting is a strategy consulting company. We empower today’s healthcare leaders to deliver an excellent customer experience throughout every aspect of their patients’ care journey”. Then the premise for this blog dawned on me… Are patients really customers? One might argue that they are not. Patients don’t choose to be patients. No one chooses to be ill, have a chronic condition or an injury that requires professional attention.

I would assert that patients are customers. Yes, health issues may ascribe them as patients, but they are not your patients until they choose you. This holds true even in emergency situations where they abruptly land in your space and are thus under your care. Personally, they still might not choose you as their trusted advisor; the one they want to have a relationship with (even for the short term); the one that they would recommend to others who are similarly situated; or the one they would return to if given the opportunity to go elsewhere.

In every patient experience – all eyes are on you, the healthcare provider. Patients do not know fully the clinical intricacies of the procedures, or efficacy of treatment options, but they do know how you make them feel. They evaluate you in terms of what they understand. They sense whether or not you see the humanness of their condition. Are you sensitive to their personal anxiety, or is it just another case for you? Anything that eases their anxiety is a plus in your direction. Knowledgeable and friendly runs circles around “know-it-all” and curt. Time spent and timely check-ins by clinical staff express concern, care, comfort. Preparatory language such as “You’ll feel a little discomfort, but don’t be alarmed ….” says you “feel” them. Do your processes come across as organized and efficient or chaotic and careless. How about the physical environment? Clean and inviting or simply put …nasty?

You’re being evaluated for the long term – even when long term is not is the nature of the care episode. It’s kind of like dating. What are you doing to win their affection? What did you do to turn them off? Patients are not truly your patients until they choose you. Until that happens, they remain customers, still open to other options. Continuing with our dating analogy, you want to be “the one they take home to mother”. Best Patient Experience Consulting will get you there. Happy dating!

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