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Are you really listening to your patients?

If the pressure to obtain and implement Customer Relationship Management software by healthcare organizations is any indication, decision makers are recognizing the increasing importance of consumer knowledge in the race to improve patient satisfaction scores. Indeed, today, patient insights can lead healthcare organizations to their best opportunities for growth and restoration of profitability far more accurately than that marketing presentation in the boardroom. The increasingly reluctant spending by healthcare consumers needs to be better understood because a healthy healthcare delivery system depends on it. The challenge is that healthcare consumer interactions are not typically structured information that is easily analyzed to be acted upon, but are increasingly emails, phone conversations, web-based chat support and other unstructured information.

Increasingly, outbound direct mail or telemarketing is simply not getting results for healthcare marketing departments. The focus needs to shift to creating a great consumer experience on the inbound approach as an alternative. Doesn’t everyone enjoy doing business with a company that is easy to find and obtain what you are looking iStock_DoctorPatientfor? You don’t have to look far for proof of this idea. No longer able to differentiate on brand reputation, leading companies instead are focusing on the consumer experience–the all-important feelings that consumers develop about a company and its products or services across all touch points–as the key opportunity to break from their competition and regain lost revenue from programs like hospital value based purchasing. Outside of healthcare, the evidence of this new emphasis is found in the emergence of the “chief consumer officer” (CCO) role across the Fortune 1000 community. Companies such as United Airlines, Samsung and Chrysler have all implemented chief consumer officers as part of their executive suites. Should healthcare plans and providers consider this key competitive move too?

The first challenge faced by these newly minted executives in healthcare will be consumer experience management (CEM)–the practice of actively listening to patients and healthcare consumers, analyzing what they are saying to make better business decisions and measuring the impact of those decisions to drive organizational performance and loyalty. Fortunately, there are new technologies to address all of the unstructured information that comes from consumer interactions – data mining and text analytics. Text analytics is specialized software that annotates and restructures text into a form suitable for data mining. Text mining comes from data mining, a statistically rooted approach to classification, clustering, and derivation of association rules. Fortunately, there is much to be learned about how to handle unstructured data from two decades of struggling with similar problems in the structured data world. We now know as needs change and evolve, organizations will require the flexibility to integrate the most appropriate text processing technologies to extract desired information. They must enable users to apply time-tested analytical approaches that can be modified or expanded upon as understanding of issues and opportunities emerges from the data itself. For example, a call center should be able to apply a multi-dimensional analysis (i.e., “slice and dice”) to call center logs and email text for assessing trends, root causes, and relationships between issues, people, time to resolution, etc. Organizations should have the infrastructure, storage, and user interfaces to process and efficiently explore large volumes of data. And they need to easily leverage their existing BI and data warehousing (DW) tools presently used only for structured data analyses, to analyze unstructured data alongside structured data. In healthcare settings, these same tools can help analyze physician and nursing notes, thus serving a dual purpose.

When text analytics are implemented against unstructured consumer information, Consumer Experience Management will drive significant, quantifiable benefits for the healthcare enterprise. In the most effective approaches to CEM, companies use text analytics to collect and analyze intelligence from all of the varied sources of feedback available inside and beyond the enterprise. They grow more intimate with their current or future consumers and more agilely adopt informed improvements. The focus is a real-time feedback loop that will result in a continual, systematic capability for measuring and improving consumer experience. With the new emphasis on managing patient satisfaction scores to keep current revenue streams in place or increase them, the time to act on this capability is now.

When creating successful solutions, I believe that the real magic always lives in the intersection of key technologies. Using text analytics for identifying the opportunities and trends from your healthcare consumers then requires action – positive messages, feedback on offered services, and referrals that are generally implemented using automated workflows during the consumer interaction, whether is it through the public facing website or mobile application. The faster and smoother the consumer transaction occurs, like appointment setting or obtaining discharge instructions, will help ensure “positive” feelings for the healthcare consumer experience. A carefully architected solution implementation will drive this all important synergy for outstanding competitive results – and happy consumers seeking out your healthcare services. The new manta for marketing: Listen to your patients and healthcare consumers and make them happy.

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