5 Patient Experience Strategies Amazon Can Teach Healthcare Providers
Posted by Shelley Thomson -
If you’re interested in patient experience strategies, then here are some valuable lessons you can learn from Amazon.
Every day, news outlets publish stories about online retailer’s arrival in Australia.
The e-commerce giant raises the bar in every market it enters. And 53% of Aussie retailers don’t think they will be able to compete.
As a healthcare provider, you might think: “Who cares? I don’t sell books. Why does it matter to me?”
But Amazon is the world’s most successful client-centred company.
It has 164 million customers. It dominates every market it enters. And it’s client-focused strategy has won it praise and admiration worldwide.
If you want to improve service in your practice, you couldn’t find a better model.
Here are lessons from Amazon about delivering an exceptional patient experience.
Focus On Improving Patient Experience, Not Competitors
One of Amazon’s core philosophies is to focus on what the customer needs and then work backwards. It is a real-world implementation of Steven Covey’s famous ‘Begin With The End In Mind’ mantra.
But many healthcare providers do the opposite. They fall into the trap of trying to out-do the competition. They lose sight of what matters to the patient.
For example, medical imaging companies often buy new equipment every year. The goal is to stand out from the competition. And they think patients understand the difference between yearly upgrades.
But one company I know avoids this practice.
They don’t buy equipment upgrades with no practical benefits. Instead, they spend the money on delivering exceptional service. And as a result, they are growing fast in a competitive space.
How Following The Competition Hurt This Healthcare Practice’s Billings
Compare that situation to this story a friend recently told me.
The owner of a private GP practice thought that he was losing patients because of his prices. He decided to offer bulk billing to match the competition.
The approach backfired.
His doctors felt pressure to bulk bill people they knew. He started losing money on consults. And he didn’t win many new clients.
Put your energy and effort into what you have control over your service. Focus on your patients. And ignore things outside your control like the competition.
Listen To And Understand Your Patients
Amazon trains every employee at a call-centre to teach them how to listen and understand.
It’s a policy that healthcare providers would do well to note.
The cartoon above seems ridiculous. But unfortunately, this situation happens too often in reality.
Medical practitioners focus on what they think the patient needs. And brush over the patient’s opinion and point of view.
It’s an easy trap, especially when patients present information from Dr Google.
But as the e-patient revolution grows, healthcare providers need a new approach. Today, your patients listen to peers, research treatments and post complaints on social media.
Medical Experts Need To Work With Patients Instead Of Dictating What To Do
A good example of focusing on patients is Hampstead Drive Medical Centre in Victoria. This practice has won Health Engine’s patient choice award three times.
The doctors and staff ‘dedicate themselves to providing the best service to patients’. And as a result, there are hundreds of positive reviews about the practice.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Bezos said: “We see our customers as guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
When you are hosting a party, you ensure everything looks clean. You make your party guests feel welcome. But everyone understands that it’s your home and your rules.
“We’re Not Satisfied Until It’s 100%.” A Motto Healthcare Practices Should Adopt For Patient Experience Strategies
(Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO)
Christmas 2001, Amazon delivered 99.9% of packages to customers on time. No small feat considering the company ships about 608 million products every year.
But when a reporter asked Bezos about this record, he responded with the quote above.
This level of perfectionism is always unheard of in the Australian healthcare industry. As a nation, we follow the ‘She’ll be alright’ philosophy’. Good enough is good enough.
But imagine for a moment if you did shoot for 100% every time.
How Would Your Business Change If You Offered Every Patient A 5-Star Experience?
A friend once told me about a private hospital in North Queensland that gives new mums wine to celebrate. It’s a small touch, but the patients appreciate it. In fact, many of them remember this one details when asked about the hospital experience.
In another GP clinic, staff come out from behind the desk to greet patients when they walk through the door. Again, it’s a small thing. But this practice is growing fast thanks to these patient experience strategies. And they will soon open a second location.
What can you do to shoot for 100% with patient experience strategies in your business?
- Could your staff greet patients with a smile?
- Could you offer exciting reading material in the waiting room?
- Or provide unexpected extras like the hospital in the story above?
Brainstorm what a 5-star experience would look like for your patients. And then try to make the reality match.
How To Solve 1 Out 5 Patient Complaints
Amazon has had almost 100% positive press for two decades.
But in 2009, they made a considerable customer service blunder. The company deleted books from users’ Kindles without permission.
People felt furious. Many vowed never to use Amazon again. But then Jeff Bezos did something unusual.
He made a genuine and straightforward apology for the mistake. And soon afterwards Amazon’ reputation bounced back almost overnight.
Genuine Apologies Can Work With Healthcare Providers Too
The Victorian Health Services Commission (VHSC) published eye-opening data about apologies. They found that health care practices can resolve up to 23% of complaints by saying sorry.
Of course, there are legal issues to take into account before apologising for anything.
But this statistic suggests an apology is one of the most effective patient experience strategies.
It worked for Amazon; it can work for you too!
Give Patient What They Want, Not What You Think They Want
There are many stories about Jeff Bezos obsession with customer-centred business. One of the most interesting is the ’empty chair’.
Early on, Bezos brought an empty chair into all Amazon meetings. He told his top executives that the seat represented the customer.
It was a simple ploy. But it helped to keep everyone focused on the customer.
Healthcare Practices Often Make The Mistake Of Guessing What Patients Want
A study published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ) illustrates this point.
In the study, researchers asked doctors what a priority for palliative care patient was. The doctors assumed the prevention of death.
But then researchers asked patients the same question.
It turned out that only 4% of patient – 1 in 25 – agreed with the doctors. Extending life was a low priority to many terminal care patients.
What your patients want and what you think they want can be very different. You always need the ‘empty chair’ in the room to make sure you are solving the patient’s problem, not yours.
As the world of healthcare evolves, you need to change with it. Otherwise, you will get left behind.
But figuring out how to develop a patient-centred practice can be difficult. There are lots of buzzwords and theories. But very few practical strategies.
That’s why I recommend looking at what’s worked in other industries and then adapting them to suit your service.
Amazon is an excellent business to model. And the strategies I’ve shared in this article are a good start.
If you would like more help developing patient experience strategies, contact me.
And if you have any thoughts about applying Amazon’s philosophies to healthcare, do let me know. I’d love to hear your ideas and feedback.