Nov. 20, 2019 | InBrief

Strategy, meet structure: How Minnesota healthcare organizations will succeed in the era of evolving customer expectations

Strategy, meet structure: How Minnesota healthcare organizations will succeed in the era of evolving customer expectations

As we saw with the October 2018 launch of Allina’s customer experience center in Coon Rapids and Fairview Health’s recent push to leverage technology to enhance their patient experience, Minnesota healthcare organizations are making significant investments in strategies focused on customer experience. This raises an important question: In an industry long viewed as providing below average service, how do organizations shift their approach to keep pace with the dramatic change in customer expectations?

One part of the answer is clear: Significant resources, planning, and commitment are needed. Consider the 2017 merger between CVS and Aetna, a testament to the effort it takes to compete in the evolving healthcare landscape. Citing the need for an operating model that, in CVS Health President Larry Merlo’s words, “puts consumers at the center of their care,” two of the largest healthcare organizations in the U.S. reached the conclusion that combining their resources was the best course of action to deliver on their customer experience goals.

But a multi-billion-dollar merger isn’t always in play for Minnesota’s healthcare organizations. What can be achieved, however, is a shift toward a capability-driven mindset that is built upon underlying assets and competencies rather than siloed departments and functions. Whether provider or payer, this begins with getting back to basics and understanding unique capabilities and positioning, defining how that shapes a value proposition for the customer, and ultimately reorganizing capabilities and strategy around that differentiated value proposition.

Prioritizing member or patient experience as a core component of your organization’s strategy is widely seen around the industry as “the right thing to do”

While focusing on customer experience resonates with members, patients, providers, and employers, many organizations fail to differentiate themselves in this regard, struggling to mobilize resources to move the needle from concept to practice. Creating a member or patient experience strategy needs to extend well beyond setting Net Promoter Score (NPS) targets or simply creating a Voice of the Customer (VOC) team. To produce a sustainable competitive advantage, the strategy—and the vision that sustains it—must be organization-wide and tailored to the market need it is intended to address.

The process of building leading capabilities such as Google’s search function, Amazon’s shopping portal, or Kaiser’s care experience is far more complex than the streamlined results might suggest. It requires a specific set of assets paired with a clear understanding of how to leverage those assets to meet a particular need. The approach most likely to establish the desired member or patient experience entails striking a balance between capabilities and market need, rather than simply grasping at the latest trend or the newest technology.

In Minnesota, Allina Health understands this dynamic, as evidenced by the system’s aforementioned Coon Rapids customer experience center launch and its 2019 efforts to help patients get the right care more quickly and efficiently via web- and mobile-based means. These initiatives demonstrated a nuanced understanding of their market’s demand for customer-centricity combined with an organizational commitment to creating a new kind of patient experience.

Success will come to those who combine differentiated strategies with the operating model to support them

If an organization does not have the proper foundation in place, initiatives struggle to take flight and often lack the follow-through necessary to support lasting, organization-wide change. Though structure can take many forms, it should be rooted in leadership objectives and employee incentives. Since success can be difficult to attain if initiatives are not properly supported by the highest levels of the organization, specific customer experience strategies should be incorporated into executives’ goals and included in resource planning in order to ensure that customer-centricity persists as the central principle of all operations.

Furthermore, aligning the organization’s incentives will guide employee actions, which eventually turn into habits and create a culture of customer-centricity. All too often, we see the opposite—the incentivization of staff with targets that actually detract from member or patient experience. Common examples include fee-for-service models that reward doctors for volume rather than care quality, or the measurement of call center staff performance based on call handle times. Adjusting the way actions are rewarded can be the difference between claiming consumer-centricity and truly being consumer-centric.

In Minnesota, the standard for excellence is high

Powerhouses like the Mayo Clinic, UnitedHealth Group, and Medtronic are leaders in healthcare because they understand how to craft products and services suited to the markets they serve. The same can be said for Fairview and Allina Health. For organizations looking to create competitive advantage through the experiences they provide, beginning the shift to a capability-driven model is the necessary first step.

Creating a positive member or patient experience is a journey, not a destination. It takes time, an understanding of what customers want and need, and the ability to leverage the right strategies and structures to bring that experience to life. Many Minnesota healthcare organizations have understood and accepted this challenge, which is surely part of the reason for the state’s consistently high healthcare rankings. For others, the time to start their journey is now.

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