Time to be more Disney?
Healthcare businesses have universally caught on to the principle that working with patients has huge benefits for the organisation’s decision-making and design processes. Those at the forefront in this regard are already reaping the rewards of patient collaboration to help address complex problems and create value. But a successful collaboration must be rewarding for all parties – so what is driving patients to choose which companies they engage with?
Like any fulfilling relationship, having a consistently positive experience is key. And when patients have the choice of multiple organisations vying for their involvement, the experience may be the main differentiator between one organisation and another.
Now more than ever, businesses must implement their patient-focused activity in a consistent fashion. The ethos and practices for patient engagement should be the same from the first point of engagement in the early stages of a product’s life cycle and across all touchpoints as the product evolves. The baton for patient centricity needs to pass through the organisation. But there are challenges:
It is well-recognised that effective patient involvement in key decisions along the life cycle of a product can have great benefits. From identifying the most critical outcomes and product profiles, through to defining unmet educational and support needs. Patient advocacy is also important for driving positive changes in health systems, which can support uptake of new approaches to care.
However, inconsistency in patient engagement may reduce the positive impact that working with patients can bring. So action needs to be taken to align the organisation.
To diagnose the current situation, you might audit activities from across the business that have or have not involved patients – what worked well and what didn’t; how did patient-centric initiatives perform compared to activities that did not involve patients? It may also be useful to assess how patient-oriented activities are framed within the business. You can identify themes that recur in the talks of the organisation’s leaders, review corporate materials to see how patient-oriented activity is described or analyse staff surveys. There are many different inputs that can be reviewed to assess how cross-functional colleagues think about patient-oriented activities and what your business is already doing well.
This analysis can fuel conversations about 'what good looks like' to start developing a shared perspective within the business. Implementing a consistent approach to patient centricity involves winning hearts and minds. It starts with creating shared understanding. What is 'patient engagement'? What are the appropriate measures of its effect? When should we be thinking about 'activation', 'empowerment' or 'involvement'? Each part of the business needs to be supported to understand what patient engagement means to patients and to the organisation and to translate this to their day-to-day work context.
We also need to consider factors that might prevent or slow down the adoption of patient-centric working practices. Do teams have the capability, opportunity and motivation to be patient centric? Do the organisation’s ethos, structures and systems support this? What can be done to move things forward?
Once you are aligned internally, it’s time to put this into practice consistently across all external interactions with patients. One idea to focus on is the value of 'experience design' as a means for creating consistency in how the business engages with patients.
'Experience design' can be thought of as an active process undertaken by organisations to optimise how people interact with them.
What does this mean in practice? Disney is a great example. Whether it’s a holiday, a movie or a toy, the experience is consistent and the feeling the customer gets is the same. This is not by accident!
Great experience design involves identifying every touchpoint that a stakeholder will have with the business, understanding what is needed at that moment in time, and creating the best possible way to fulfil the need.
Top tip 1: Always remember that 'best possible' is defined from the perspective of the stakeholder, not the organisation.
Top tip 2: Touchpoints need to be considered as being part of the same journey rather than individual destinations, so that a consistent experience is created for people. Businesses that are customer-centred apply this method. Think Disney!
Each of these touchpoints will transfer information to patients, involve patients in decision making and prompt health-related reflection. By defining an ethos for patient engagement and ensuring these touchpoints are aligned with it, healthcare organisations can create a positive experience for patients, leading to a constructive environment for debate, as well as differentiation.
Involving patients in healthcare innovation and embedding their unique insights into activities is not without its challenges. But with patient engagement having the potential to transform outcomes, consistency is key. By understanding your current position, beginning the change internally and taking an experience design approach to your external touchpoints, it is possible to stand out from the competition and build enduring relationships with patient communities for mutual benefit.
Get in touch with our MD, Aaron Pond, to find out more.