As I regularly work with many of the world’s leading healthcare companies, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the issues facing the industry. Even so, it wasn’t until recently that I had my first personal hospital experience (lucky me) and really understood why 75% of frequent healthcare consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience.
As a patient navigating the healthcare system, I unfortunately had a mostly negative experience. Apart from a stellar medical staff and a successful surgery, every other element of my experience inflicted as much pain as I felt when I tried to sit afterwards. Among all the frustrations, three things caused me the most angst:
- Scheduling Issues:
When my situation had progressed to a point that I needed consult a specialist, my primary care physician (PCP) quickly provided a referral. I called the specialist’s office the next day and left a voicemail. I later learned that they never check their voicemail, which would explain why I never received a call back. Once I managed to get someone on the phone, I was told the doctor only does consultations 6-hours per week and the next available appointment was mid-day and three weeks away.
I then revisited my PCP to acquire another referral for a specialist that might be able to see me in a more timely fashion. The back and forth, trial and error system wasted both my and my PCP’s time. If the PCP’s office had a system for consulting a specialist’s schedule prior to making a referral, they could have saved their own time, my time, and helped me to get in with a specialist earlier. With experiences like this, it’s not a surprise that only 36% of consumers think scheduling healthcare appointments is quick and easy (see figure 1.2 from the Patient Experience Study.
- Coordination Between Specialists and PCPs:
Beyond scheduling, the coordination between my PCP’s office and the specialist she referred was mind-blowingly bad. While employed by different practices, both of them share the same office one day each week, used the same room to examine me, and even the same nurse. Yet somehow, there were a number of mishaps and delays when sharing records between them which inevitably left me calling both practices to sort it out. No wonder consumers have a measly 29% satisfaction level with providers coordinating care outside of their own facility. Yet, surprisingly, providers don’t think they aren’t doing that bad, scoring their own performance at 42%.
- Lack of Virtual Care Options:
When most people think of virtual care, they imagine fancy online video conferencing with a physician. But in reality, there are many opportunities to use common technologies to make the patient experience more convenient and efficient. For example, the week of the surgery I learned that I needed to have a pre-op authorization which hadn’t been mentioned to me previously. I rearranged my schedule to accommodate, and was enraged when this appointment consisted of a series of diagnostic tests – measuring my body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, etc. – that were taken the week before, and the week before that, and the week before that (by the same nurse!).
My PCP did ask me a few questions which were useful and important for the surgery, however, they were questions that could have easily been asked over the phone. The Patient Experience Study found that 52% of consumers have considered telemedicine, and I can see why. That last visit was two hours and a $25 copay that I’d like to have back.
The Prophet and GE Healthcare Camden Group study, “The State of Consumer Healthcare: A Study of Patient Experience,” exposed several troubling aspects about today’s patient experience. From simple inconveniences, like difficulties scheduling appointments, to worrisome reports of delays and miscommunications among providers; there is ample room for the healthcare industry to improve.
In general, my experience can be illustrated through my pre-op lab visit. Already inconvenienced with having to go to another appointment, and as I sat in the patient room suffering from pain similar to sitting on a smoldering campfire, I rolled up my sleeves in anticipation and the clinician asked, “Would you like to make your copay now or wait for the bill.” I pulled out my credit card to take care of it, and asked, “What will be the charge?” She politely took my card and responded, “I don’t know.” >swipe<