I had the privilege of participating in my second panel hosted by Curtis Kopf, Senior VP of Customer Experience at Premera, at the recent Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference. Curtis was formerly of Alaska Airlines and is new enough to healthcare to be able to point out idiosyncrasies of healthcare, and he led the audience, my fellow panelists, Elizabeth Fleming, VP of Group Health Cooperative, Tabitha Dunn, VP of Customer Experience at Concur, and me on a rollicking discussion of who excels in customer service, how to emulate consumer organizations, and how not to emulate consumer organizations.
I enjoy panels as they afford the opportunity to evaluate my own perspective based on the insights of others usually in extremely different roles. This panel was unique as we represented payer, provider, employer, and digital health/technology: practically a cross-section of the industry.
Both over coffee prior to the panel and on the panel, we talked a lot about the influence and guiding principles of Disney as the quintessential consumer experience focused organization. Tabitha had just returned from a holiday trip with her family, and Curtis had the opportunity to attend the Disney Institute for customer service training during his time at Alaska airlines.
Before getting into the takeaways from our experiences and thinking about what to take away from Disney, we started the panel by discussing why consumerization was a topic in healthcare at all.
A number of factors have converged to drive consumer or patient-centric approach we now see in healthcare:
- 20M newly insured people offered an opportunity that brought new players, like Walgreens, Walmart, Medical One, and Zoom+ into primary and urgent care market
- On demand services like Uber and constant communication through messaging apps, and the ubiquity of smart phones created an expectation of healthcare on demand.
- High-deductibles made consumers evaluate more closely how they were spending their healthcare dollars
- Getting over the hump of initial EMR integration made physicians ask why they couldn’t have consumer-quality tools to do their jobs
Regardless of what happens with the ACA with the incoming administration, we don’t expect many of these things to change, although there may be more competition in primary care as these new players put pressure on incumbents.
How do you react when there is more competition? A customer-centric approach is a good place to start, which brings us back to Disney. As a child, I did a school project on Walt and his empire, but have to admit I didn’t know as much about them as my fellow panelists.
Here are my key takeaways from the discussion:
- Disney is extremely consistent, which provides autonomy for their staff to make good decisions within the 4 values that Disney holds. Although you may think that the brand is the highest value, it is actually safety. A Disney cast member is allowed to break character only when safety is at risk. Consider this as you think about the healthcare experience: safety and good experience are not mutually exclusive.
- If you’re going to try to emulate an experience from another industry, make sure you fully understand that company’s or industries core values. The that resulted when executives managed to the HCHAPS survey: Nurses were given scripts to follow rather than making decisions, which is the exact opposite of how Disney actually operates. Nurses should have been given autonomy to work within the values of the health system and the needs of the patient.
- Disney has an entire underground operations center that supports what guests experience above ground. This supports both the safety but also the experience of the park. Curtis toured this facility while at the Disney Institute. What struck me the most about this was the realization that the hospital has no back-office. We’ve met with administrators in their offices that are converted hospital rooms. First, think how uninspiring this is for employees as an office. Second, these are usually on active hospital floors, so patients experience random water cooler conversation as they are in care.
As an outsider to healthcare, it took me a while to get used to going to the hospital to have meetings, and it still makes me uncomfortable to pass patients waiting in hospital beds in the hallway while I’m going to negotiate a contract. This lack of a “back-office” impacts patients and staff alike, and really extends to every patient interaction. The EMR is essentially back-office software. Why hospitals run their patient-facing experience from this essentially line of business technology is beyond me.
Although at Wellpepper our client is the health system, our most important user is the patient. We want to ensure that the patient experience is as good or better than any popular-patient facing applications, and represents how the patient understands their care. As a result, we are able to enable patients to participate, and self-manage, and still deliver valuable information to help the internal health system operations center be more effective, which is why I’m always happy to talk about the consumer experience in healthcare.