Marketing Leaders Should Grab the Patient Experience Wheel

Marianne Aiello, October 27, 2010

Improving the patient experience, which healthcare organizations have long thought of as a market differentiator, will soon become a necessity under healthcare reform. This sentiment was reflected in the new HealthLeaders Media Intelligence Report on the patient experience, in which 93% of healthcare leaders said patient experience is among their top five priorities. But many are still struggling to achieve results and, in many cases, it comes down to accountability.

The report, which was published earlier this month, was compiled from 303 surveys completed by HealthLeaders Media Council members.

When asked to name their biggest stumbling blocks to improving the patient experience, many leaders cited an abundance of higher priorities (19%) and lack of funding (18%), but there is often a larger problem—no one is quite sure who's responsible.

When asked who in the organization has primary responsibility for patient experience, only 13% say the CEO. Several (34%) answer "a multidisciplinary team of leaders, clinicians, and staff" and the rest are spread out across a variety of titles and roles, including CNOs (11%), clinicians (9%), frontline staff (7%), and COOs (7%). And even though 13% of respondents were marketers, only 2% of all respondents said the chief marketing officer has primary responsibility for patient satisfaction.

Industry-wide, there is no clearly defined patient experience leader. Herein lines the problem.

"It's all of our responsibility, but if someone doesn't have accountability for it, then it doesn't happen" Kathryn Buckingham, COO for Tennessee Cancer Specialists in Knoxville said in the report. "If it's everybody's job, then it's nobody's job."

There is a void to fill—and marketing leaders should fill it. Championing an improved patient experience is a natural role for marketers, who largely deal with how the organization is perceived by patients and the community. And now that the patient experience will soon be tied to reimbursement under the healthcare reform law, it is an opportunity for marketers to become more involved in high-level strategic planning from which they are often excluded.

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