The consumerization of health care has fundamentally changed the game, and there is no going back. Now more than ever, consumers want and need authentic, human connections with their health care providers. And to create these human connections, we as health care leaders must understand not only how people think and feel, but also how consumers sense health care brands and what the brand can do for them.
While this is true across all health care experiences, this need for a human connection is even more heightened in a hospital setting, where scenarios are very trying. As Stanford Health Care was developing their new hospital experience in Palo Alto, they asked themselves, what can we do to eliminate friction between the provider and the consumer. It is this drive for humanization and a commitment to delivering on patient experience principles that led Stanford Health Care to reimagine and create a revolutionary space for health and healing.
I recently had the privilege of co-presenting with Michiko Tanabe, Chief Marketing Officer at Stanford Health Care, and Alpa Vyas, Vice President of Patient Experience at Stanford Health Care, at the HMSP Virtual Summit. Together we discussed how new research is illuminating what consumers want from health care providers and how Stanford Health Care leveraged those insights to create a new facility that blends the most advanced medical technologies with a human-centered approach to patient care.
And while each health care system is different – and not everyone may have the resources available to them that Stanford Health Care does – there are still actionable steps all healthcare leader can take to create powerful human experiences within their own organizations.
Here are 4 main takeaways from our presentation:
1. Be intentional with your design
As you think about optimizing your patient experience journey, it is important to remember it is not just about unveiling a new building or deploying state-of-the-art technology, but more importantly, it is about understanding what your patients and their families need from you.
To ensure the greatest impact, you must first ask your patients what is important to them. What do they need from you and why are those features and elements important to them? From there you listen – really listen – to what they are telling you. The art of patient experience design is then in the translation of what you hear – bringing your patients’ needs to life through purposeful design. Finally, you must operationalize what you hear. It isn’t enough to just do what you “think” your patients want or replicate what you see your peers doing. You need to “ask, listen, translate and do” what is right for your patients. Every situation is different.
Learn More: The New Spaces of Health Care
2. Put your people first
Experience isn’t just the physical facility or environment, it also your culture and your service. Your people are your brand. Your “people experience” directly impacts the patient/family experience (and vice versa). You can’t influence one without taking the other into account. Ultimately, positive experiences are all about connections and trust. It is people, YOUR people, who make this happen. That is why they must come first.
As a result, experience must first come from within. You must ensure your people are empowered to bring your brand to life in a way that is authentic to your organization. This starts with education, training and consistent reinforcement of your culture. To deliver on your desired brand experience, your people must feel connected to the brand. Help them understand the role they play in bringing your purpose and mission to life. When they have clear line of sight to your experience goals, they are better equipped to live and breathe your brand in every facet of their work.
3. Redefine the role of your marketing team
Everything we do as brand and marketing leaders directly impacts how brand is represented and experienced. Your actions help shape consumer perceptions of who you are and what you stand for. Brand is not experienced in isolation. You have an incredible opportunity to push your team’s capabilities in a new direction.
Consider how you can use the patient journey as a lens by which you inspire meaningful connections. Knowing the incredible impact that behavioral and emotional drivers have on choice and advocacy, consider doubling down on experience and emotive attributes as you think about building your brand, and how you bring it to life through marketing. Remember to connect what you are doing to a deeper purpose at your organization, so that you can mean more to the audiences you serve. Finally, rally around “delivering positive experiences” over traditional marketing measures; it will increase your credibility in the boardroom and beyond.
4. Allow yourself to think beyond the expected
It’s time for us as health care leaders to start looking beyond the typical, everyday on-site measures of care delivery, when there are so many more channels, touchpoints and engagement opportunities that consumers are looking for. It’s time to take more ownership over the broad, multifaceted nature of brand experience in a new way. It’s time to start being more intentional, and more purposeful with our decisions. It’s time to start thinking differently.
Start using sensorial experiences to challenge conventional industry norms. Use intellectual factors to develop more rich, interesting conversations with consumers. Highlight the importance of emotional attributes that create connections with consumers on an implicit level. And finally, become the spokesperson at your organization for delivering new, tangible brand experiences that create positive behavioral consumer relationships.