How Health Care Can Fix Its Customer Satisfaction Problem

Health care should ultimately be about customer care.

For a business that saves lives every day, health care gets low marks for customer satisfaction.

The latest Net Promoter Score gives the healthcare industry a rating of 38 out of 100. It trades behind Apple, Chick-fil-A, Netflix and Starbucks, but ahead of Exxon Mobil, Time Warner Cable and Waste Management.

Why do customers give the medical industry the same satisfaction grade they give to the online flea market, eBay?

It’s not because Americans don’t appreciate the work of doctors and nurses. They are among the most highly respected businesses in the country.

The problem is that there is a vast uncaring and inefficient bureaucracy built around the medical field. And I believe that’s one of the main reasons that being a customer of that medical bureaucracy is such a lousy experience – the economic incentives of our business are backwards.

Instead of rewarding health, we pay for illness. Our fee-for-service healthcare system is set up to compensate businesses for getting as many tests and procedures done as quickly as possible.

The head in the bed – unfortunately, has become the fundamental economic model of so many modern hospitals and healthcare facilities. Business focuses on illness, not wellness. Get tested, slap a Band-Aid on the problem, and get that patient out the door. Caught in a cycle where more time and effort is spent attempting to recover faster payments to the provider than promoting a better life for the patient. Quantity is king.

Right now, the system is set up to benefit medical businesses more than medical customers. This is complicated and confusing for the healthcare consumer. I’ve worked for decades as an RN and CEO of healthcare companies, and even I have a hard time helping my parents decide between different Medicare supplement insurance plans.

Confusion and complexity do not help the healthcare customer.

I believe the best way to fix these healthcare problems – while creating a system that benefits the customer – is to change the economic incentives for the companies in the system. For our senior population, the conversation must shift to how they want to live the years they have left and get on from there, versus prescribing more drugs and tests simply because the economic incentive is to buy more drugs and tests. is to be determined.

Fortunately, the economic pendulum is starting to swing in the right direction. Instead of being locked into a traditional fee-for-service system, the federal government through Medicare Advantage plans is promoting testing programs that reward companies for keeping people healthy.

Medicare innovations such as the Accountable Care Organizations under the Shared Savings Program, ACO REACH and Medicare Advantage put healthcare companies on the hook for health outcomes. It’s a new philosophy: Providers are rewarded for keeping patients well—which is what many physicians and providers want. Companies still treat a client’s lung cancer, for example, but they also know that it is much healthier and cheaper in the long run to pay for the client’s smoking cessation program. prevention is better than cure.

When we think about customer satisfaction in the medical business, we must always remember one basic fact – you have to be human. and think alike. In healthcare, we get so caught up in innovations, regulations, interventions, and money that we forget to see each patient as an individual. We need to help them decide what is right for them.

All I can say is what my senior healthcare company has done to improve those satisfaction scores. We’ve partnered with the two largest payers in Minnesota who are also investors, and we’re going all global at-risk health care. This model, especially the innovative type of value-based care, leverages all of the risk on improving an individual’s health and reducing costs.

So far, the results have been dramatic: a 28% reduction in admitted patients, a 36% reduction in admitted patient days, and a 22% reduction in overall expenses.

What pleases us most is that our Customer Satisfaction/Net Promoter Score is 93. That’s nearly triple the healthcare industry standard — and more than any of the top-rated companies mentioned at the beginning of this column. Human-centered health care makes sense for people, providers, and payers. It can be applied to every setting – wherever a person lives. We have doubled our global risk strategy, going from 7,000 lives under our care to 35,000+ next year.

Customer satisfaction increases, and so do profits. Global risk and value-based care lead companies to rethink all old assumptions about what customers want and need.

Healthcare should ultimately be about customer care. Customers want to be treated as whole and living people, not as fragmented billing opportunities of broken bones, blocked arteries, and impaired memory.

The sooner our healthcare system focuses on the clients, the better off we all will be. Metrics show it works – for patients and providers.

Joel Theisen, BSN, RN, is the founder and CEO of LifeSpark, a holistic senior healthcare company based in Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter: @Lifespark_CEO.


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