Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Consumer Communiction -It Ain’t All About Information: It’s About Communication

Notes of a Health Care Market Watcher

Paula Dean, one of the most popular cooks in the food channel, has a book out called It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ Her point is there’s more to cooking than meets the eye. Cooking reflects your life experience. Cooking is something everyone can connect with. We all have to eat, and we’re all thinking about that next meal.

Similarly there ‘s more to health care than information. We’re up to our hips in information. There’s information everywhere – on TV, the Internet, blogs, newspapers, magazines. Much of it, particularly on the Internet, is undigested and unedited. There’s so much of it in health care, in fact, that there’s a new executive in the health system C-Suite – the CIO, Chief Information Officer.

But information has gotten so overwhelming for the CIO, that we’ve added another "C" in the C-Suite , the CXO, or Chief Experience Officer. Here’s how the Cleveland Clinic explains the duties of the CXO in a press release:

The Cleveland Clinic has named Dr. Bridget Duffy as its first chief experience . a new role aimed at making sure each patient has a high-quality expererience that meets their medical, physical and emotional needs.
"As a leading healthcare provider, we must exceed the expectations of those we serve, offering compassion, showing empathy and passion for patient-centered initiatives," said Dr. Toby Cosgrove, the Clinic's chief executive, in a written statement.

Duffy, who most recently was a health-care consultant and advisor in San Francisco, is known nationally for building health-care environments that treat the whole person, humanize the delivery of medical technology, and support the role of doctors and nurses as leaders in patient care

The Chief Experience Officer might also be called the Chief Communication Officer, for it is her duty to communicate to the public just what they are likely to expect and experience in the hands of health care professionals.

This communication requires a mastery of multimedia technologies and marketing strategies. It will also require fulling “engaging” the patient (I still prefer “patient” to “health care consumer” in the experience of their own care. Here is how I explain it in an article of mine that appears this week in Healthleadersmedia.com
What will this "engagement" take? I believe it will take three things:

•Cogent, relevant and understandable communication between patients and doctors giving compelling reasons to engage as partners in care. One example of this are Internet-based videos, "prescribed" by doctors for patients before surgery, telling patients what to expect at surgery--the details of the procedure, its anatomy, its benefits, its risks and its consequences.

•A more structured approach to the patient doctor encounter. A standardization of the medical history so that one can compare performances and outcomes based on a commonly understood basis.

•New financial arrangements that reward patients and doctors based on realistic incentives for both to produce more favorable outcomes and on the recognition that outcomes depend heavily on what goes on outside as well as inside the office.

Finally, it will take observing and applying some of the strategies and techniques that have worked in the American retail sector. Retailing is America’s most productive sector. In the last dozen years, chains like Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Staples, Home Deport and Home Stores have sparked America's remarkable productivity. How have they done this? By restructuring the way they do business. According to marketing guru, Erich Joachhimsthaler, retailers have done it by looking at behaviors and demands of customers from the "outside-in," i.e., through the eyes of time-bankrupt hardworking two-career families, seeking convenience and by adopting a strategy of DIG (Demand-first Innovation Growth). Retailers have introduced multiple sites for shopping (mail-order catalogues, Internet, television), increased convenience by minimizing travel time (by placing outlets in malls, neighborhood stores, office buildings, transportation terminals), placed goods in huge stores that offer one-stop shopping, reorganized contents around lifestyles and trained employees to play defined roles concentrated on serving the customer.

Similar changes are beginning to occur in health care:

•Retail clinics in drug stores, grocery stores and retail outlets

•Urgent clinics that are specialized easy-to-reach

•Exercise and fitness facilities in retirement villages

•Big MACCs (Multispecialty Ambulatory Care Centers), conveniently located in suburban and rural settings

•Big Boxes (large buildings co-owned by hospitals and doctors with joint reception areas, support personnel and support services)

•Specialty surgical hospitals for heart, orthopedics and neurosurgical disorders

•"Focused-factories" with integrated teams to treat diabetes, AIDS, heart disease, back disorders, hernias, infertility

•Companies that specialize in providing care in the home for the frail elderly (that socially isolated one percent segment of the population that account for as much as 20 percent of health costs).

Experiences are building to provide Americans with better and more accessible care. Now all we need to do is to communicate what we’re doing to the American people. After all, the biggest variable in America’s health care future is public opinion.

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