2013 November

Engage Men

Studies published by HHS report that women consume about 12% more healthcare services than men because they are more likely to have regular checkups and doctor visits and take prescription medications. Men have typically delayed care until they have a problem that requires costly intervention – but with emerging technology and new options for care that could change.

My last post about what patients value was distilled from comments made by women. Consequently, I was left wondering whether men and women have shared values when it comes to healthcare or not. So I found a comparable healthcare service for men and read the YELP reviews for several providers. There were very few reviews written but there were some notable comments.

Data: One of the reviews described the charts, graphs and regression analysis a provider used to demonstrate the potential risks and outcomes of the specific procedure and the risks relevant to the author. The use of data in that way seemed to empower the author to make a decision about his care. Conversely, none of the reviews written by women referenced data or the use of data other than some basic stats about outcomes.

Advise: Another review was written by a man that underwent a procedure that didn’t result in a noticeable difference in his condition. In his review, he summarized his condition and provided advice for men with the same condition that may be considering treatment. Conversely, reviews of a similar nature written by women offered an opinion about their provider more often than advise about their treatment.

Given the limited reviews, I expanded my search to a medical group known to serve the same commercial patient population. There were about 60 reviews from men which accounted for about 25% of the total.

Cost: Almost every comment was a complaint about the cost and/or the incompetence of the billing staff. Authors used expressions like “watch your wallet” in reference to the high cost of routine services and the additional fees charged during annual checkups. Many reported discrepancies in trying to reconcile their provider statements with the remittance advice from their insurer. One even claimed to be “allergic” to the billing and collection practices of the provider. It makes me wonder whether men reconcile statements more closely than women or if they are just not as familiar with the documents and processes.

Granted it still isn’t enough information to draw definitive conclusions about what men value in the context of healthcare. However, it was enough to spur thought about how to engage men in their health in ways that could help reduce their cost of care and the potentially the care of others in their family.

Digital Health: Following the NIH annual exam recommendations, much of the annual exam for men could be completed using emerging digital health solutions in the near future.

Provider Portals: Data from the digital health solutions offer providers an opportunity to build early relationships with men by providing them with their health risks and outcomes profile and reviews by procedure to empower men in decisions about their health.

Minute Clinics: Simple menus of services will make it easy for men to fulfill all the requirements of an annual exam especially now that prostate screening exams a thing of the past. Hard to understand bills and statements will likely be a thing of the past too.

High Deductible Plans: Men may become more influential in family decisions about health and healthcare consumption given that there is more at sake. More employers are offering high deductible plans with healthcare savings accounts and for some it will be the only option.

About the Author: Shannon Smith is a healthcare strategist with over fifteen years of experience helping companies achieve greater success. She has successfully led the transformation of ASCs and hospitals, helped technology and device companies with product and customer development and advised other professional firms on transactions.

What do patients value?

Prior to my initial call with a new client, I read the Yelp reviews for their organization as well as a key competitor. It didn’t take long to gain insight into what their patients value, the behaviors and services that add value and the potential shortfalls of the organization. Let’s start with the five factors that their patients (female, commercial patients) value.

1. Convenience: Patients value the convenience and ease of using their portal. It may come as no surprise to most of us in the industry now that patients like being able to see their test results and upcoming appointments and having the ability to reorder medications. However, one patient proclaimed the portal could do anything they wanted. It left me wondering what else the system does and how can it be used to add more value.

2. Coordinated Care: Patients value clear and consistent communication across the care team. They expect providers to be prepared for their visit and for the rest of the care team to be on the same page. Being prepared and knowing the next steps reportedly makes patients feel like they are important and that the care team is committed to their outcome.

3. Positive Attitude: Patients value providers who are optimistic but realistic about their odds even if the odds are stacked against them. In this case, it seems the HOW information is communicated is as important as the WHAT information is communicated. Behaviors that demonstrate empathy such as eye contact and genuine communication make the patient feel cared for and help establish a trusting relationship.

4. Service: Patients value the “focused factory” where they can get the tests and support they need under one roof. The focused factory makes for the best use of their time especially when everyone including the billing staff are experts in the specialty and can provide a seamless customer experience.

5. Time: Patients value the total experience which includes the amenities outside the building and services beyond those provided by the care team. Patients commented on the location, ease of parking and other services in the area that help them make the best use of their time.

Some of the reviews were good and others…well let’s just say some were not so good. As I read the reviews it was easy to gleam how the organization was falling short because many of the authors took the time to communicate their specific issues. Someone from the organization responded to a few of the negative reviews in an attempt to clarify the facts. One response in particular only aggravated the patient more and exposed the organization to a potential HIPAA violation.

Criticism is never easy to hear and it is hard not to be defensive especially if the facts aren’t quite right. However, rather than arguing about the facts in a public forum there are steps you can take to turn negative reviews into gold.

1. Work with the review site to remove negative comments that have incorrect stats or other facts.

2. Acknowledge all comments not just negative ones with a sincere response expressing your gratitude or apology. Acknowledgement builds relationships.

3. Use the reviews to identify ways to improve your service and enhance the patient experience to build an even better business.


About the Author: Shannon Smith is a healthcare strategist with over fifteen years of experience helping companies achieve greater success. She has successfully led the transformation of ASCs and hospitals, helped technology and device companies with product and customer development and advised other professional firms on transactions.