by Jeff Fuller, MS, FACHE
Trust is a high value currency in healthcare, but many health systems are stuck executing on a strategy aimed at building trust without an adequate amount of evidence of what the health consumer needs to establish trust. Patient trust and customer loyalty is built through impressions and micro-encounters that occur far beyond the 1-2% of the time our patients are sitting in traditional clinical encounters. These impressions are evidenced in subjective ways that are often not captured in a clinical encounter, but in impressions made and sentiments revealed while communication occurs in the consumer’s daily lives. They reveal valuable but often missed context about how the consumer experiences relationships with the health system.
What we know:
- Health consumers who do not trust healthcare organizations are far less likely to share critical information (oftentimes non-medical) that could play a key role in improving overall health.
- Personalizing the care and service experience by providing tailored and timely communications leads to opportunities to not only build trust, but is the most effective way to create opportunities to care for the whole person.
- Care transitions are a critical time for patients and families full of lost opportunities to build trust (moving from one care setting to another, especially from acute care to the home).
The opportunity health systems have to overcome the challenge of building patient trust is to deploy easy-to-access communication solutions that help you really understand what trust means to each consumer, and then create a provider-patient relationship that reflects those values and preferences, and encourages patients to share non-medical, critical information. And in order to not only build trust and loyalty, but create those opportunities to care for the whole person, your health system needs to have a solution to establish a Continuity of Experience.
Continuity of Experience
What is Continuity of Experience? When we think of Continuity of Care, we’re mostly thinking about the clinical coordination or handoff of care, but what is often overlooked is that exceptional care continuity goes above and beyond the clinical aspects of care; it involves consistently addressing the interpersonal aspect of needs. Continuity of Experience is simply applying consistency, reliability, familiarity, convenience, and trust throughout your interactions with consumers to provide the desired health outcome. This is especially important as we are working to address consumer choice and build trust. Consumers of health have a better idea now of the value they can get when they are more willing to branch out and find providers that fit those needs. An effective continuity of experience will mature a relationship throughout a consumer’s journey from the “front door” to the bedside.
As clinical leaders and strategic planners at health systems work to build trust with patients into their plans for the future, there needs to be a consistent way to keep the conversational interactions going in between care transactions. These interactions can be as simple as checking in with the consumer via text message to ask them how they are feeling or remind them of important care instructions. What we found through a recent research study looking at nearly a million patients over 3 years is that contextualizing clinical transactions with interpersonal needs during the pre-care and point-of-care parts of the consumer’s journey can reduce readmissions by 26%, leading to an average of $12.4M in annualized cost savings.
Understanding the Patient’s Needs
Part of the problem with building trust today is that many healthcare providers try to apply population level thinking to address individual situations. This is simply due to the fact that most health systems do not have a single source of record for patient communication interactions when they are not involved in a clinical encounter. What’s needed is a mechanism to build a Continuity of Experience. This mechanism must include ways to understand an individual’s needs within the context of where they live, eat, work, and play. When you are able to collect sentiment and attitudes about the health system in times when they are not in clinical care, we can discover what matters to the individual and apply it as an organizational effort to iteratively and continually improve the process of getting to know our patients.