It goes without saying that every patient going through the healthcare system has unique needs and wants.
With such uniqueness however, comes the inherent desire of each patient having their own personalized patient experience in response to these. That by itself is not an "light bulb moment" —but when one thinks of patient experience in the industry, discussing and debating major issues such as timeliness, access and transitions of care tend to dominate the agenda.
Unfortunately, this also is not an light bulb moment —these problems have been talked constantly for decades in a cyclical fashion— and arguably personalized experience is still just out of reach. Even on an individual level, within the context of our own experiences, we know that more needs to be done to provide the care experiences patients deserve. The question then becomes, how can healthcare really begin to design the process of providing personalized patient experiences?
Identifying the who from the who
The healthcare system is inherently complex—to say that every single program or intervention can be tailored to each individual patient from the start is unrealistic.
Rather than painting a broad stroke for all patients and their needs, identifying, and understanding patient demographics gives a starting place to differentiate the different issues and needs—providing a much smaller, targeted and manageable area of personalized intervention(s).
Gaining an awareness of, and appreciation of these differences enables the discovery of what is unique to each group—elderly patients may have completely different expectations about their patient experience than a group of teens.
Going one level deeper, patient demographics paired up with specific conditions or events that transpire in the hospital also provide a more focused lens to understand unique needs and wants. As an example, if surgical services are a key area of focus, filtering both an initial patient demographic with the type of surgery patients undergo identifies who may really want/need certain experiences.
The common thread
Once the different types of patients is differentiated, gaining insight as to what their experiences are when they happen is key. Utilizing surveys, providing one-to-one interviews or simply the act of observation as a third party are potential avenues where one can gain this information.
The key with this, is being able to get information closer to the point of truth and when they happen as close as possible—patients are human as well, and the sooner they provide feedback, the richer and more accurate the information will be. It is only after gathering this information, understanding the context, and piecing it together, that anyone can begin to identify and formulate the common thread that weaves through touch points, needs, and wants within each group.
Through this, one can better understand whether each journey is either planned or unplanned. Coming back to the example of surgical services, one may identify the common thread that a certain patient population demographic often experiences an unplanned event that requires constant intervention(s).
Armed with this key information, one can then design and tailor patient experience programs, policies, or even quality improvement initiatives to target what may be lacking or needs to be implemented.
Utilizing the common thread as a base, one can weave the elements and unique needs of that group within programs, or multiple touch points within an experience journey. The key being to have that as a foundation, but, to also to allow room for still variability, and responsiveness to get closer to truly offering personalized patient experiences.
Like individual treatment care plans based on specific presentations of symptoms within a patient, such programs can be engineering to be flexible and responsive, while still maintaining an overall standard level of care.
Ultimately, healthcare is undergoing a change, where patients are shifting to be key partners in healthcare. Offering personalized patient experiences won’t happen overnight, but with this approach, a closer realization to the end vision can be achieved.