Having recently assisted a family medicine department with their annual retreat where the “patient experience” was a major topic of discussion, I have renewed my interest in the customer experience economy and, in particular, how that notion applies to healthcare.

Studies of customer experience (although sometimes confused with customer service) in other industries are quite common. For example, the Beyond Philosophy 2011 Global Customer Experience Management Survey reports:

The top three companies most admired by CE experts for the customer experience they deliver are technology companies, with Apple ranking first, followed by Amazon and Zappos. “Apple has married all the elements of its experience and connected with its customers in a deeply emotional, irrational way,” said Walden, adding, “Amazon put a stake in the ground when it announced it would become the world’s most customer-centric company, and Zappos claims to be a customer service organization that happens to sell shoes.”

But what about healthcare? Who are the leaders in customer experience in doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals? The Beryl Institute defines the “patient experience” as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.” Are there good examples of healthcare organizations that put this holistic view of quality into practice?

Some examples of healthcare organizations that care deeply about the customer experience are:

UCLA Hospital System – Their mission is “Healing humankind one patient at a time, by improving health, alleviating suffering, and delivering acts of kindness.” Dr. David T. Feinberg, Associate Vice Chancellor and CEO for the UCLA Hospital System, describes how that mission has been applied in the following entertaining and inspiring TED talk.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ5u7p-ZNuE]  

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – One of its strongest values is “a commitment to provide our patients with the highest quality of medical and supportive care, and their families with the level of information and support necessary for them to make informed decisions and to become active participants in the care of their children.” I saw this played out at St. Jude in the way spaces are designed for families and the care that employees show for children and their parents.

Sharp Healthcare – This San Diego hospital system is striving to be:

The best place to work — attracting highly skilled and passionate staff members who are focused on providing quality health care and building a culture of teamwork, recognition, celebration and professional and personal growth.

The best place to practice medicine — creating an environment in which physicians enjoy positive, collaborative relationships with nurses and other caregivers.

The best place to receive care — providing a new standard of service in the health care industry by employing service-oriented individuals who see it as their privilege to exceed the expectations of every patient by treating them with the utmost care, compassion and respect.

Are there other examples of a superior patient experience? Every clinic and hospital says that it cares about patients, but which ones are making that experience top priority? What are they actually doing to reduce patient anxiety, build trust and confidence, encourage healthy behavior, develop loyalty, and, of course, achieve positive outcomes for patients?