Healthcare Marketers: Out of the Patient Experience Picture?

HealthLeaders Media Staff, November 18, 2009

Top healthcare executives say patient experience is among their top priorities, but are they looking toward marketers to drive the effort? Not according to the 2009 HealthLeaders Media Patient Experience Leadership Survey, released online this week.

HealthLeaders Media surveyed more than 200 top-level healthcare executives about their organization's patient experience efforts. One of the questions we asked: "In your executive suite, who 'owns' the primary responsibility for patient experience?"

The top answers were "CEO" (24.5%), "no one specific individual" (20.5%), and "other" (18.5%). Among the "other" answers, a good chunk of the respondents wrote in "everybody."

As if that weren't enough to mull over, the number of CEOs who said their chief marketing officer or chief experience officer was responsible for patient experience was a measly 2%, split evenly between the two titles.

They came in last, not only behind CEOs, everybody, and nobody but also behind chief nursing officers (16%), chief operating officers (10.5%), chief quality officer (5%) and chief medical officer (3%).

(What do you think? Who should be responsible for the patient experience? Take our quick poll and let us know what you think.)

Now I understand there's been a call for patient experience to be more of a strategic effort. There are many out there who say it is not a function of marketing. And there are others who say that marketers should step up and take charge of this important initiative.

It doesn't matter who's right about that. The bottom line is that CEOs are sending a couple of messages loud and clear.

For starters, the fact that CEOs put themselves first is encouraging. It says to me that they're taking responsibility and it backs up the survey findings that say it's either their top priority (33.5%) or among their top five priorities (54.5%). But just because a CEO takes responsibility for the success or failure of an initiative it doesn't mean he or she is the one doing the work.

And that's the second message: That CEOs don't see marketers as being capable of doing that work.

Gary Adamson, chief experience officer of Starizon, an experience design consultancy in Keystone, CO, agrees the numbers are indicative of how CEOs view marketers.

"Experience staging is operational. You have to do things differently in the way you operate," he says. "I imagine the reason that number is so low is that healthcare leaders by and large don't view marketing as an operational function, they view it as a communications function."

Marketers didn't just rank low in the survey—they came in dead last. Chief marketing officers ranked behind chief medical officers, for goodness' sake. That means CEOs are looking to physicians rather than a marketers to make sure patients have not just good clinical outcomes but a positive experience. Physicians, who are often recognized as one of the biggest stumbling blocks to improving the patient experience. Does that sound logical to you?

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