“Patient or customer-centered care” is a phrase often used in the healthcare sector, but it’s less frequently delivered on. Service models have asked patients to navigate through the way systems are built rather than ecosystems that are built around the patient themselves. Through the 2021 Healthcare CEO Future Pulse, we found that most healthcare executives agree that to better respond to patient needs and preferences, the sector should adopt a more “patient-centric” approach, with 79 percent of CEOs recognizing that patient/customer experience at their organizations “needed improvement”. When asked how their patients/customers would rate their organization’s ability to meet their needs, only 31 percent of CEOs rated their organizations as “excellent”. 

How would you patience rate your organization?

The question is, if healthcare leaders are to adopt this mentality, how far along the journey are they in making it happen? Unfortunately, the shift to a patient-centered paradigm is “on the agenda” of only a few survey respondents (29 percent) and has been plotted as part of a strategic plan (44 percent), but it has been implemented by fewer than one in five organizations (18 percent). Likewise, for moving incentives away from volume and toward patient outcomes: fewer than one-quarter (24 percent) have made any real progress.

Two-thirds (67 percent) also believe healthcare organizations will, in the future, face the same expectations for customer service, quality and accessibility that are seen in other consumer-focused sectors such as retail, entertainment and banking. Sixty-one percent of CEOs believe that healthcare lags behind these other industries. There is hope – with progress underway with many organizations. For example, 73 percent of organizations already track the quality of their patients’ experiences and 70 percent act on these findings.

Dr. Anton Decker

The Mayo Clinic’s Primary Value: “The needs of the patient come first”.

Consistently ranking among the top hospitals in the world, the Mayo Clinic has built a reputation around patient centricity. “The entire organization is laser-focused on patients’ wellbeing and their experience, from the cleaners, to the administrators, to the CFO, to the physicians, everyone,” says Dr. Anton Decker, president of Mayo Clinic International.

How does this manifest itself? It starts from the first interaction – the ‘unhurried exam’ that gives space and time for patients to explain their medical and environmental circumstances, while enabling clinicians to get more holistic understandings of patients to identify what they can influence in delivering better outcomes – all without worrying about the clock. This approach helps establish relationships from the onset, and builds continuity of care, more nuanced care plans, and ultimately – happier, healthier patients.

Dr. Anton Decker
President Mayo Clinic International
(United States)

Patient-centricity is a paradigm shift for providers that comes off as intuitive to health leaders. “We're a people business, but you wouldn’t know it because the conversations are often about systems, regulations and structure,” says Rob Webster, CBE, chief executive of South West Yorkshire Partnership Foundation Trust and lead chief executive for the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Integrated Care System in the England. “In the UK, we're pathological about structure and I can see why that's tempting. But it isn’t always the answer.”

To live up to their ambitions, healthcare organizations will need to embark on a journey that makes patient-centricity a reality. So, what does this journey look like? Many executives say their organizations are focused on patient customer experience (74 percent); digitally enabled services (72 percent); and the quality of communication between their organizations and patients (71 percent).

Many executives (61 percent) agree that shifting to a patient-centered paradigm is important to their organizations and fully two-thirds (66 percent) think it’s important to shift the basis of their incentives from volume to patient outcomes and experience. The introduction of Diagnosis Related Group payments is driving this trend in China. “Healthcare reform in China is shifting from ‘buying services’ to ‘buying health.’ In the near future, hospital managers will need to focus on providing value-based healthcare,” says Dr. Dawei Wang, president of the Liaocheng People’s Hospital in China’s Shandong province.

Customer centric priorities

Looking ahead two years, these priorities remain largely intact. However, improving value for money takes on greater importance (69 percent versus 58 percent), suggesting that as organizations transform their ways of working, incentivizing this shift will be an important way of stimulating and reinforcing these behaviors.

This proves out in the longer-term. In five years, more than three-quarters of CEOs (76 percent) expect delivering value for money to be among their organizations’ top priorities, second only to improving patient customer experience (80 percent). To achieve this ambitious goal, patient experience needs to be put at the center of their strategy, operationalized, and incentivized.

Key takeaways

  • Customer-centricity is a focus of many other sectors, but healthcare has yet to catch-up. This motivation provides an opportunity for the sector to learn from other industries and import customer-centric practices that enable access, convenience and personalization.

  • Digital plays an important role in enabling customer-centricity; by leveraging the technology healthcare organizations interface with every day to create real-time touchpoints with patients.

  • There are dividends to customer-centricity, such as giving providers the permission to better understand patients, which allows organizations to personalize care, and support happier, healthier patients

How to take action

Healthcare organizations should re-focus their strategies to orbit around patients – requiring ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approaches that re-evaluate culture, training of workforces, gathering and utilization of data, and designing digital services that serve patients’ needs.