Use Patient Experience Analytics to Go Beyond CAHPS

Avery Earwood
Avery Earwood

Guest post by Avery Earwood, principal healthcare strategist, SAS Center for Health Analytics and Insights.

What do Disney, Apple, Southwest Airlines, Mayo Clinic, USAA, Amazon, Pandora, and Kaiser Permanente have in common? They all sell the same thing.

Whoa! That’s crazy talk. What’s that you say?

Yes, each of these organizations knowingly and deliberately differentiates and competes on customer experience. In fact, each one delivers the best customer experience in its respective industry, as measured by Net Promoter Scores.* Whether delivering immersive entertainment, personalized radio or healthcare, these companies make an emotional connection and engage their customers in extraordinary ways.

Within healthcare the importance of the patient experience cannot be overstated. Our personal health and well-being is synonymous with happiness and is manifest in our personal experience. For many of us, being sick, in pain or in fear for our life (or the life of a loved one) tends to heighten our perceptions and amplify every experience. It’s during such times when a kind word can seem like a grand benevolence, and the slightest oversight feels like a cruel insult. As such, providers should invest as much energy in delivering the best possible customer experience as they do in delivering safe and effective treatment.

Patient satisfaction is not patient experience

The Beryl Institute defines patient experience as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.” Unfortunately, the standard method for measuring patient perceptions about healthcare is a collection of survey questions. Don’t get me wrong; we need a consistent method for assessing patient perceptions to make apples-to-apples comparisons between organizations. The Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS**) survey offers healthcare consumers and financers just that – information by which to make such comparisons. However, the subjective survey data alone is insufficient for providers to fully comprehend and then systematically improve patient experiences.

I won’t belabor the difference between patient satisfaction and patient experience here, but I will draw your attention to Fred Lee’s work on this subject. Lee aptly compares Disney with American hospitals in his best-selling book If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 ½ Things You Would Do Differently. I strongly encourage you to invest 17 minutes watching his funny and exceptional TEDx talk on the fundamental difference between patient satisfaction and patient experience.

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