Illustrating the value of proactive Patient Experience Design

Photo by  Gus Moretta  on  Unsplash

Photo by Gus Moretta on Unsplash

In a recent conversation, one of our colleagues said of Connect_CX “the work you do is so critical, but it was initially difficult for me to get a handle on its value. Patient Experience (PX) design is a relatively new discipline, but I’d compare it most closely to Public Relations: an investment in PR yields both tangible and intangible benefits, but by now everyone understands its value. How do you measure the positive cost impact of an event that never occurred due to proactive PR?”

The definition of Public Relations, according to the PRSA website, is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” We were thrilled that she made the connection - because letter for letter, that’s how we’d define proactive PX design.

[Note: we’ve broadened the term “Patient Experience” to one that focuses on connecting every individual that participates in a given healthcare journey. This is why we’ve coined the term Healthcare Experience Design.]

Here’s an illustration:

Charles, a man in his late 50s, hears from his primary care doctor that they detected a concerning rise in his PSA level from a routine blood test. Because he has a family history of prostate complications, this is not unexpected but it’s still a stressful time. He and his partner want nothing more than to get answers quickly.

Proactive Healthcare Experience Design anticipates his emotion, and accounts for it in the following ways:

  • Information: Coordinated communications between the Primary Care Provider (PCP) and the urology practice: why additional screening is necessary, what a potential biopsy may involve, online resources for more information. PCP shares electronic health record interoperability with urologist, saving time and reducing chance of error.

  • Logistics: Pre-visit call or letter includes detailed information about day-of-visit: financial obligations, maps/directions, parking information, time of appointment, anticipated time with urologist and support staff, what a biopsy involves, and a number to call with any questions.

  • Welcome: environments designed for stress-free entry and waiting include areas for private consultation/conversation, no blaring televisions, windows to the outside or calming artwork.

  • Empathy: Script for welcome, waiting and access to exam/procedure area; each caregiver has awareness of information that’s been shared at each point in the process, asks if there are any questions, and introduces the person that will be with him next prior to leaving the room.

  • Support: A biopsy is recommended. Once finished with the exam and procedure, caregivers provide more information on next steps and schedule a follow up with the PCP. Billing questions for pathology/lab and other providers are clarified prior to leaving.

These interconnected communications will reduce stress and support Charles as he returns to his trusted physician. But as our colleague noted, it’s difficult to know how much value was generated in this illustration. So what might have gone wrong?

  • Information: PCP shares little with respect to Charles’ potential condition; without access to information from the BHC, they may be left to research on their own. Medical record transfer is unwieldy at best, and does not inspire confidence in the urology practice.

  • Logistics: The PCP gives scant information about what to expect on day of exam, or worse, information she shares with Charles and his partner differs from that provided by the urologist. With conflicting information they may show up late, unprepared for a potential procedure or unaware of financial obligations; any of which could lead to lost revenue, to say nothing of the frustration for everyone involved.

  • Welcome: Details on Charles’ health history, condition need to be clarified on arrival; noisy waiting area, dirty furnishings, no privacy for phone calls or consultations, few positive distractions while waiting.

  • Empathy: Reception handoff to clinical staff is awkward; caregivers ask the same questions multiple times, or don’t share information with each other prior to seeing Charles; interpersonal and informational dynamics seem uncoordinated at best, dangerous at worst.

  • Support: Once finished with the procedure, the couple is hurried to check-out without time to ask questions. Later, they receive bills from different providers that they hadn’t anticipated.

Let’s unpack that PRSA definition once more:

  • A strategic communication process (interconnected across the entire journey, regardless of medium or provider silo);

  • that builds mutually beneficial relationships (between PCP and urology practice, clerical and clinical staff, facilities and logistical support staff, all of whom support the patient and family);

  • between organizations and their publics (PCP and urologist build a seamless informational flow, designed to be consistent for Charles, and for each patient journey).

These are some of the disciplines we practice within Healthcare Experience Design:

  • Communication System Visualization

  • Service Design

  • Brand Standards Design

  • Wayfinding

  • Communications support:

    • Corporate/Internal/Executive

    • Marketing + Social Media

  • Storytelling/healthcare narrative consulting

  • Donor engagement, recognition

Like a PR firm, our goal is to protect our clients’ reputations. But because we work primarily in healthcare, we build our design process centered first on the informational, physical, social and emotional needs of caregivers, patients and families alike.

Do this work correctly, and your reputation will take care of itself.