Worrell’s 2019 Clinical Advisory Board event kicked off with a panel discussing the future of the patient experience. The panel was comprised of frontline practitioners with specialties ranging from emergency medicine to plastic surgery and they represented institutions spanning from Silicon Valley to rural Arkansas.
Changing consumer expectations along with the industry’s shift to value-based care creates new challenges and opportunities for healthcare providers. The panelists agreed that healthcare providers must proactively develop great patient experiences and high-value care if they want to survive in this extremely competitive environment.
In case you don’t have time to watch the full video above (we highly recommend it) we put together this recap for you.
MEET THE PANELISTS
Dr. Ted Chan is an emergency room physician and faculty member at the University of California San Diego. His work designing the UCSD emergency department to meet the needs of the growing geriatric population has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal. His ability to secure funding from the NIH, HRSA, NSF, and many more has allowed his innovations to positively impact millions of people.
Dr. Ellsworth is the medical director of the plastic and reconstructive surgery residency program at Houston Methodist and owner of his own practice. Dr. Ellsworth advances the field of medicine through his research and his efforts advocating for policies to protect patients and providers against price-fixing.
Dr. Steel is a practicing anesthesiologist and the Chief of Staff and Chief Quality Officer at White River Medical Center where he led the facility to be named as one of the Top 100 Rural & Community Hospitals in America by the Chartis Center for Rural Health. His expertise of the economics of healthcare allows him to develop systems that align the incentives of administrators, physicians and patients.
Qui Vo, RN is a nursing director at Hayes Valley Medial Center in San Francisco, California. His fourteen years of experience in the operating room has led to his expert understanding of the current state of the patient experience and how it can be improved. Having worked in county hospitals and surgery centers that cater to the wealthy, Qui brings a unique perspective about the differences in patient experiences within the healthcare system.
PATIENTS AS CONSUMERS
The panelists shared many anecdotes that demonstrated how people are increasingly approaching healthcare as diligent consumers with high expectations. Dr. Ellsworth said, “I have people who come to me for breast reconstruction, and I’m the third provider they’re interviewing, and it’s a procedure that’s covered by insurance.” This anecdote indicates people are committed to finding the best quality care and the best value. Patients feel empowered with all the information available on the internet and they will take the time to find a provider that they think is the best.
“I can’t even keep up with the literature in my specialty. So how can I expect the patient to be knowledgeable enough to make critical decisions as a consumer?”
Dr. Chan viewed the trend of patients acting as empowered consumers as a positive, but he thinks healthcare is too complicated of a domain for patients to be adequately educated consumers, “I can’t even keep up with the literature in my specialty. So how can I expect the patient to be knowledgeable enough to make critical decisions as a consumer?” At the beginning of the presentation, Dr. Chan humbly admitted that he learned more about the healthcare system when he had to navigate it for his elderly parents than he did in his years as a physician. He said, “I can’t imagine how someone makes it through the healthcare system without the help of a navigator.” He concluded that having professionals that specialize in helping patients navigate the healthcare system would allow patients to make better decisions and it would lead to higher quality care.
THE PATIENT EXPERIENCE
As people continue to approach healthcare as consumers, the patient experience becomes even more important. After a technically successful surgery, one of Qui Vo’s patients posted a very negative review on Yelp. In the review she even said, “The surgery went well.” As Qui told the story he explained that his team made a mistake in not calling the patient back, “She felt she wasn’t heard, and that no one cared.” This one complaint required a lot of time and resources to resolve, but it had a positive ending for Qui’s surgery center. He said, “Fast forward five months and she came in for another procedure. She thought the care was great, but she was just stuck on the fact that no one called her back." The little logistical details can have a major impact on the patient experience and your organization’s bottom line.
Knowing the importance of the patient experience, Dr Ellsworth invests in the details to ensure his patients have a positive experience. He explained, “I pay to have two people at my front desk, because I want a person to answer the phone every time it rings.” As consumer expectations are increasing, providers are also under pressure to increase the production. Dr. Ellsworth explained how he aims to develop meaningful relationships efficiently, “I can’t spend an hour and a half with each patient, but I can hire people to do it. Then I can come in for the critical fifteen minutes, so the patient can build a connection with the person that is going to do their surgery.” These are just a few of the tactics he uses to strategically improve the patient experience.
“It’s important to sit down with the administrators who see you as widget makers, and make sure they hear your stories of connecting with real people.”
From an administrative perspective, Dr. Steel explained the importance of keeping the humanity of patients at the center of everyone’s attention. To the other doctors facing administrative pressure to see more clients in less time, he said, “It’s important to sit down with the administrators who see you as widget makers, and make sure they hear your stories of connecting with real people.” He explained that front-line practitioners need to continually remind administrators that providing quality patient experiences is central to the mission of healthcare and it is good for business.
A popular belief in the healthcare industry is that switching to value-based care will lead to better patient experiences, and lower costs. The panelists agreed that value-based care has the potential to positively transform the industry, but the transformation will not be without complications and collateral damage.
The complications of trying to track the value of care creates a burden that affects the small players in healthcare the most. Dr. Ellsworth explained, “It’s harder and harder to find people that can sustain a solo practitioner life in surgery or medicine, because the money required to document the value-based care goals is so high.” Dr. Steel also mentioned how value-based care systems are harder to implement in rural settings, “Rural hospitals work with a more difficult payor mix, so rural hospitals are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to value-based care, because it requires more overhead.”
“One man’s waste is another man’s profit.”
As the healthcare industry transitions to value-based care, it’s important to note that there will be winners and losers during the transition. Dr. Steel encouraged the audience to remember, “One man’s waste is another man’s profit.” As value-based systems lead to some patients or facilities saving money, that means other institutions will be losing money. He cited the example in his hospital where, after they entered a bundled payment for improved care program for one line of service, they reduced their utilization of skilled nursing facilities by 50% and the utilization of home health nursing by 80%. In that situation, the hospital and the patients benefited, but the skilled nursing facilities were on the losing end of the transition to value-based care.
THE FUTURE OF THE PATIENT EXPERIENCE
As the panelists explained, the organizations that proactively develop better patient experiences and more valuable care will be the organizations on the winning side of the transition to value-based care. At Worrell, we specialize in helping the leaders in the healthcare industry design the future of the patient experience. If you’d like to learn how we could help your organization design better patient experiences and a brighter future for healthcare, please reach out. We look forward to starting the conversation.