When your patient experience is like a taxi ride

I was in Nashville last week for a client meeting. Per my usual routine, I went down two escalators, through the automatic doors, and walked directly to the taxi line. I get the next one available, and about 20 minutes later, I’m where I need to be.

The taxi solved my problem, which was transportation from the airport to my meeting. It met my needs. So, what was wrong?

The experience was not ideal. It wasn’t bad per se, but the car was a beat-up minivan. The interior smelled like it hadn’t been cleaned in ages, and when I tried to talk to the driver about the unexpected traffic, he hardly responded. When I asked for a receipt? His huffing and puffing made it clear that it was not a welcome request.

Snapshot from my cab ride, as we navigated around road closures in downtown Nashville.

My experience was bad enough that I vowed to take a Lyft next time.

Is your patient experience like this taxi ride?

As I got out of the cab, contrasting this taxi to my usual experience of Lyft, it hit me: How often are our patient experiences like this?

We can meet our patient’s needs. We have an ER that we make sure is staffed by capable people. We can provide a patient who is experiencing stomach pain the necessary tests to rule out a life-threatening emergency. The future of healthcare, which is now, is no longer about meeting our patient’s needs. It’s about their experience.

Lyft drivers aren’t allowed in Nashville’s taxi line, but they are allowed at the airport. I now have a choice between a standard taxi and a ride-sharing service. I can find transportation services that meet any unique needs I have (car seats for my kids, handicap accessible, or someone willing to drive me 2-hours away) and do my research ahead of time. 

Lyft has empowered me to take ownership of my transportation. I can select the type of vehicle I want, see pricing before I buy, track where the driver is, and I have the ability to rate and offer feedback about my driver.

Our patients have a choice too. They see posts on social media from friends either ranting or raving about their urgent care experience. They actively seek to read negative reviews about a doctor and weigh it against what they value. (Poor bedside manners but offers the latest clinical studies? Rude receptionist but a location close to work?) They find out that a new women’s center has brand-new suites with, dare we say, comfortable beds for new dads. They hear that Dr. Porter is respectful of alternative vaccine schedules for their new baby, and even calls late at night to check up on sick patients. And so on and so on.

They care about the experience. 

As a client recently said so well, we should focus on human care, not healthcare. We need to stop being like a taxi driver, who for so long could get away with only meeting his rider’s needs. We must start being like a Lyft driver, who is supported by helpful technology and knows that he will be rated on his cleanliness, friendliness, and even how good his music is.

What do you do if you’re providing a taxi experience?

  • Stop looking at digital as a separate entity. A new website or campaign doesn’t change how your patients feel about receiving care. Patient experience is everything together, including marketing, operations, clinical staff, facilities, branding, and every other person that makes your hospital work
  • Start somewhere. Even if you’re a one-man or one-woman marketing team, there are still things you can control. It’s just an excuse to say you can’t do anything about the patient experience
  • Build to a vision. Do you have an ideal experience written down for your ER patient? Or, your cancer patient? If not, take an hour and write it out from the patient’s perspective. Then identify what things you have control over and start working on those things
  • Build cross-functional teams. By starting with what you can control, you can bring others in. This gives them buy-in while also building consensus in your organization to bring even bigger change
  • See how you can improve on the small things. A recent LinkedIn article by Dr. Henry Capps talked about how they implemented “Always Events” at Novant Health’s 530+ clinics. Things as simple as free WiFi, not yelling your name when the doctor is ready to see you, and doing a better job at handling waits, make a big difference and have little to no operational costs. It just takes someone to stand up and advocate for change based on a patient’s perspective

Both a taxi ride or a Lyft ride could have solved my problem. I would have been able to get to my meeting on time and safely with either option. But as a traveler coming into 2019, I know my chances of having a good experience are stronger with a ride-sharing service.

If I’m willing to change my habits for something as simple as a taxi ride, it’s time for me and others to make the same decision for healthcare.

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