We’ve been talking about Voice of the Customer and how it can glean insights which help improve and innovate products and services. But who are the customers when we talk about healthcare? Actually, there are two types of customers. Despite the fact that in many healthcare systems, patients do not pay directly to care providers, the patients are still considered customers. The nurses, doctors, technicians etc. are also customers of the healthcare industry and their voice needs to be heard as well.

source: www.infor.com source: www.infor.com

There are a number of methods to obtaining VoC data in healthcare. One way is to follow a patient or doctor through an entire process to see what works and what aspects need improvement. Observing how the customers react to and experience the healthcare process will highlight weaknesses and earmark them for improvement.

Another method is to capture the emotions of the customer experience (known as Emotion Based Design). Instead of recording the customer’s attitudes and opinions, the VoC professionals note the emotions felt by the customer during each step of the process. Patients generally fill out an experience questionnaire and focus groups or interviews are conducted to get a better feel of the patient’s emotions. The goal is to find the touch points in which the patient is actively involved and map high and low emotions to the various touch points.

Next, a patient and staff engagement day is held, where the problem is identified and everyone cooperates in brainstorming ideas. New ideas to improve the process can they be tested in reality and analyzed to see if they are successful.

The advantage of this method is that the customer is involved with the design all the way through the process and not just before and after changes are made. In this way, issues can be dealt with as they come up and not after a final product has been completed that then has to be reworked. The more customers are involved with the process, the more likely it is to be accepted. The customers (i.e. nurses, physisians in this case) take ownership over the innovation and promote it to others, so that it achieves long-term sustainability.

Here’s an example of how VoC can be used to improve healthcare: Observation of patients in an emergency waiting room shows that they are frustrated with long wait times, and surveys after the fact confirm that this is a huge problem. VoC experts investigate processes going on all around the hospital and discover that the root of the problem is in a staff shortage in radiology, which causes test results to come in slower and leads to a backlog in emergency. They recommend a shuffling of the staff schedule in radiology in order to solve the problem.

By involving both internal customers (healthcare professionals) and external customers (patients) in the innovation process, organizations can improve the process of healthcare and improve patient satisfaction. When medical procedures are pleasant, people are more likely to visit clinics and hospitals as soon as they feel something is wrong. This leads to early detection of diseases and an improvement of the overall health of the population.

Patrick Sirois

At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.