2020 Trends from SHSMD: Patient Experience as a New Mandate

By The SHSMD Team posted 01-15-2020 10:36

Recently, SHSMD asked a small group of senior executives and young professionals in health care strategy what they think are the most important trends for 2020. The top results, which varied by discipline, included:

  • Partnerships and collaborations.
  • Metrics and analytics.
  • Patient experience as a new discipline.
  • Next-level personalization.
  • New entrants to health care.
  • Distributed health care (outside of traditional health care settings). 
Over the coming weeks we’ll explore these trends in blog posts and other resources. Each blog post will highlight one or more trends, featuring commentary from hospital and health system professionals in marketing, planning, business development, communications and public relations and links to SHSMD resources. 

This week’s first trend is about patient experience and consumerism. 

Patient Experience as a Mandate

Patient experience has always been a requirement for mission and now it is a requirement for survival itself. More and more hospitals and other health care providers recognize that and seek to improve outcomes through providing better patient experiences.

“The fundamentals of patient experience are embarrassingly basic: Design the product and services around what the customer wants,” notes Cathy Lee, vice president of patient experience at McLeod Health in South Carolina. “That said, applying it to health care is extremely complex. Our expertise has historically overshadowed the desires of the consumer. We knew best what their needs would be and the patient or customer historically was not equipped – or at least we thought they weren’t equipped – to design the delivery of care.” 

Lee adds, “The beginning of the digital age, consumerism as a component of the patient experience, is going to be the driving factor on whether a provider has a competitive edge. We can’t stay in that sad and archaic mindset that ‘we know better what you want.’ Consumers bring new expectations to health care – if it’s so easy to order something from Amazon, it should be just as easy to line up an appointment for a mammogram.” 

Adding simplicity to a complex system is often more difficult than adding new complexities, Lee warns.  “It’s very easy for us to take this idea of patient experience and call it a strategy, a field of expertise or a discipline. Those concepts are necessary to operationalize patient experience but we cannot allow the thing itself to be siloed. If you want to win in patient experience, the internal territorialism must stop. Territorialism is the number one cause of a failed patient experience endeavor.” 

Marketing and strategy professionals have a unique role to play in patient experience. “They can shepherd and facilitate the patient experience, bringing everybody together and deeply integrating patient experience into strategy and execution. This has to be our reason for action and it begins with our mission,” Lee emphasizes.

More Recent Trends

Some of the more recent trends in patient experience include:

  • More emphasis on understanding the patient journey, including experiences with a brand before the patient needs health care.
  • Increasing use of real-time metrics such as feedback kiosks.
  • Integration of messaging to keep patients and families updated.
  • Adoption of out-of-industry practices from retail, hospitality and other organizations with strong customer loyalty.
  • A new emphasis on technology integration in patient experience.
Successful marketing departments have a profound understanding of customer needs and wishes. Furthermore, patient loyalty relies not on marketing but on positive patient experience so it only makes sense that marketing, communications, strategy and business development should all engage in designing the patient experience. 

Possible Pathways for Strategists

Health care strategists can engage in patient experience improvement by using the marketing and planning disciplines to:

  • Champion voice of the customer and behavioral data analysis.
  • Add more transparency and convenience to the financial part of patient experience.
  • Analyze and interpret customer journeys.
  • Shepherd the different stakeholders to fruitful collaboration.
  • Use design thinking to integrate customer journey findings into service delivery.
  • Apply metrics to understand the impact of patient experience improvement.
  • Apply effective approaches throughout a hospital or system.
  • Study what organizations with customer centric cultures are doing to provide good customer experiences and applying those approaches.

Strategic questions to ask

✔ What is our organization’s priority for this trend?
Where are we now?
✔ If there is a gap, what are the steps to bridge it?

For more information and inspiration, check out SHSMD’s full collection of resources on patient experience. SHSMD’s tools on the topic include presentations, articles and case studies, webinar recordings and reports. 

Want to discuss this trend, ask colleagues about who’s doing what, validate your thinking with peers or share your perspectives? Please join the discussions on MySHSMD, a lively members-only discussion list.  

1 comment


25 days ago

I couldn't agree more with Cathy Lee's quote about silos and territorial behaviors between departments. As patient experience has grown as a discipline, it has unfortunately become another silo. Marketing is in one, operations in another and patient experience is in yet another. From the consumer standpoint it creates frustration and confusion. Patients know when the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. They lose trust quickly and that colors the rest of the encounter. I see the silos all the time. Foster ownership and create a culture where everyone sees customer experience as their job.