“Code Lavender” – Focusing On The Patient Experience

If you don’t know it yet, the consumer “experience” is rapidly becoming the hot topic. I’ve talked about it a lot beginning with companies like Cigna that have hired and staffed a consumer experience team and Chief Experience Officer. But, as the WSJ pointed out earlier this week in their article “A Financial Incentive For A Better Bedside Manner“, this is getting quantified in the provider world. One might argue that experience has always mattered more in the provider world since it’s easier to switch hospitals or physicians than insurance companies, but that is likely to continue to change as the individual insurance world and Medicare continue to create competition for the individual.

For payers, you can already see this individual market playing out with the growth of retail stores which is where the experience begins. In other cases, the PBMs and payers have to rely on many cases on their call centers as the front-end of the consumer experience. Additionally, with pharmacy being the most used benefit, this is another critical area. And, we know that pharmacy satisfaction is highly correlated with overall payer satisfaction.

But, let me pull a few things that caught my attention in the WSJ article:

  • CMS will begin withholding 1% of their payments and tying payment to quality standards for medical care AND patient satisfaction surveys known as HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Services). This will go up to 2% in 2017.
  • The survey is a 27-question survey sent to a random sample of discharged patients (about 25% of the 36M patients admitted in 2010 with a pretty low response rate of 7%). It asks about cleanliness, quiet, communications, and an overall satisfaction based on something similar to the Net Promoter Score (i.e., would you recommend the hospital to friends and family).
  • 67% of patients give their hospitals the top two ratings on a scale of 1-10 (which I actually think is pretty good).
  • Only 60% say that doctors and nurses always communicated well about medications (which was higher than I expected).

Cleveland Clinic Chief Executive Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, a heart surgeon by training, says he had an epiphany several years ago at a Harvard Business School seminar, where a young woman raised her hand and told him that despite the clinic’s stellar medical reputation, her grandfather had chosen to go elsewhere for surgery because “we heard you don’t have empathy.”

  • The Cleveland Clinic calls their program HEART—for hear the concern, empathize, apologize, respond and thank. They also use the term “Code Lavender” for patients or family members who need immediate comfort.

I look forward to watching how this transforms over time. I know I’ve seen this play out in the dentist’s offices for my kids. The waiting rooms have video games and other things to keep them and their siblings busy, but I do agree with the article that this may unfairly bias the wealthier hospitals.

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