Healthcare service design

The dividing line between goods and services in healthcare has changed

Don't let a break due to an internal organizational shortcoming function as a weak link in your healthcare service design ecosystem

this picture is a diagram that explains healthcare #servicedesign

Healthcare organizations tend to focus around products and delivery channels and customer-facing outputs, while internal processes (UX, employees) are overlooked. Maria Todd focuses on these internal processes in this latest article on medicaltourism and healthcare #servicedesign.

Service design is not a new concept. It's been around since 1982.

Lynn Shostack proposed that organizations develop an understanding of how behind-the-scenes processes interact with each other in 1982. But in healthcare, we tend to let reimbursement systems design services because if they are "non-covered" services, we don't get paid.  Healthcare organizations have for years focused around products, service lines, delivery channels and customer-facing and revenue-producing outputs. Meanwhile, internal processes (ux, employees) were overlooked. Maria Todd focuses on these internal processes in this latest article on medicaltourism and healthcare #servicedesign.

Managing the pieces of healthcare service design rather than the whole make a health care facility, clinic or even a DME or home care provider more vulnerable and creates a service that reacts slowly to market needs and opportunities. What's changed lately is how we re-design service and who is now responsible for execution on the changes.

When someone calls to ask about a price or availability of a service, verify an appointment, or check on how insurance adjudicated their claim, the painful, tedious and time wasting run-around we experience in giving our personal information over and over and over again stems from a broken internal process that is the result of a lack of #servicedesign.

Service design has three main components

  1. People
  2. Props and 
  3. Processes

Whether the activity is the design, launch and operation of a medical tourism department, a concierge medical practice, a new surgical procedure in the operating theater, or a new contract that's been negotiated for third-party payment by a commercial insurance plan, Medicaid or Medicare Advantage, service designs are no longer a departmental function. And in healthcare, there isn't one single service design.  The service design changes by who is using the system, who is paying the bill, and what they need and expect in order for them to rate the service they experienced "delightful".

What goes on behind the scenes to make "delight" happen takes requires the engagement of the whole healthcare organization and its supporting cast of characters. Much like a fine dining establishment, what is served at the dinner table is dictated by what happens in the supply ordering process and paying the bills for the food (selection, availability, adequacy, freshness) in the kitchen (cooking, cleaning, storage) and by the service team (waitstaff and bus staff), and the management and owners (hours, location, decor, comfort, temperature, lighting, etc.).  All those component parts are behind the scenes and are closely related to branding, pride of employment with the brand, pride in the menu, pride in the ingredients, etc.  All that happens before we get to customer interaction.  If we waited until they arrived, that wouldn't be #servicedesign; it would be response...and perhaps service disaster mitigation and brand recovery.

Sidebar

Healthcare service design is not simply designing a service. Service design in healthcare is how something gets done.

Healthcare service design addresses each of the brand and ancillary touch points that move the patient towards deciding that they had a delightful medicaltourism experience.

It is deliberate. And it requires that the service designer know the customer, his or her preferences, needs, and situation prior to the identification of the holder of the solution and what they will return to after their user experience. It isn't something that we try to sell because we some extra product laying around.  And you cannot begin to design services in healthcare if you have no idea who your customer is or what they want. And that applies whether the customer is a self-insured employer or labor union health benefit plan administrator, a medical tourism consumer, or a local patient who resides a driveable distance from you and has more than one option from which to choose to receive their healthcare services.

A medical tourism example from Spain

All too frequently, I am called to either build a strategy or fix a broken strategy for a medical tourism destination where the project owners were led to believe that medical tourism is a way to sell "cheaper than X" healthcare services at a destination that has an airport, taxis, a hospital or clinic, and a hotel or a spa and some doctors, dentists and nurses. Some want me to fix it remotely by listening to them about how they marketed, what they post on their website, and without traveling there to witness it, just tell them what to do by Skype or WhatsApp.  They don't want to hear anything about branding, marketing channels, product design, brand touch points, and consumer interfaces or the customer journey. They aren't interested in any discussion about their existing or missing policies, use of technology, infrastructures, or systems. Instead they want to know how I can help them attract more patients to their service, immediately.

In Eastern Spain, in 2005, in a small agricultural town that extends to the Mediterranean border with an airport about 35km away, I visited a hospital eager to get started on medical tourism minimally invasive spine surgery.  Their consultant just concluded the engagement and they were expecting patients to start coming in. They had the surgical equipment their American consultant recommended, the doctors were trained how to use it and perform the procedures, and a German marketing consultant had created an expensive printed booklet-format brochure that mentioned symptoms such as "cervicobrachialgia" and had transferred all that copy and the images to their hospital website.

As I sat with them, I questioned them on their medicaltourism #servicedesign for this procedure:

  1. How would patients seeking this service find them? "By an Internet search"
  2. How would they coordinate a consultation or a surgery? "Call on the phone to general admissions during weekday business hours"
  3. What language does the admission coordinator speak? Spanish, why?
  4. What would they receive in terms of a price quote?  An email with a 5 row spreadsheet excerpt that said "Surgeon, hospital, anesthesiologist, 1 night before and 2 nights after" and a price.
  5. How would they get from the airport to the hospital? "Hire a taxi and give the name and address of the hospital"
  6. Which hotel would they book? "Any hotel, there are 4 in the immediate vicinity"

At that moment, seated next to me was my husband. He excused himself and left the table without saying a word. I thought he went to the gent's, but he never returned. He went directly to the car to wait for me. He knew that the visit was essentially over.

On my arrival to the car, I heard my husband giggling like a schoolgirl. He couldn't help himself. The giggling continued intermittently through the drive north to Barcelona and all during dinner. At one point, he laughed so hard he had tears in his eyes.  I was sickened that we had carved out a part of our vacation in Spain for this waste of time.  Time is the one commodity I can never replace.

Conclusion

Healthcare service design is not simply designing a service. Service design in healthcare is how something gets done.  It addresses each of the brand and ancillary touch points that move the patient towards deciding that they had a delightful medicaltourism experience. It is deliberate. And it requires that the service designer know the customer, his or her preferences, needs, and situation prior to the identification of the holder of the solution and what they will return to after their user experience. It isn't something that we try to sell because we some extra product laying around.

If you are ready to tackle your backstage problems in healthcare service design, marketing, branding, or you are experiencing service complaints, customer frustration, or are wondering how you can attract more referrals to move through your sales funnel, I can help you. Together we can improve how your employees and customers view and delight in the services you offer. Let's start with a simple, low cost, service blueprint analysis.

GET IN TOUCH...

To ask a question, inquire about consultation or get onsite training, call or send Maria a message.

image-Maria Todd Onesheet

About Maria Todd

Maria Todd is a globally-renowned health industry entrepreneur and healthcare business strategist who consults to healthcare & health tourism businesses. She solves complex operations, marketing and payment challenges in healthcare business administration. 

Maria brings over 35 years of expertise in six complicated areas of healthcare business administration and strategy: managed carehealth tourismconcierge medicinemultiprovider networks and physician integration, physician employment contracting, and healthcare marketing and branding.

She is the author of 18 internationally published healthcare business administration professional books and has delivered more than 3000 keynote presentations, Master Classes, webinars, seminars and client onsite workshops in over 100 countries since 1989.

Find and Follow Maria Todd by searching #AskMariaTodd

Design Thinking, Health Tourism, Healthcare Branding, Service Design, , ,
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