Customer Segmentation Comes to… the ER?

A new breed of ER caters to the elderly patient.

Few people associate hospital emergency rooms with customer experience excellence.  But some hospitals are working to change that.

 

If there’s something consumers associate with ERs, it’s long wait times and crowded quarters.  But as reported in The New York Times this week (“For The Elderly, Emergency Rooms of Their Own“), some hospitals are applying the concept of customer segmentation to create more customized and appealing ER experiences.

 

The article describes the advent of “Geriatric Emergency Rooms” – urgent-care facilities with a design, layout and patient care approach that’s tailored to the needs of the elderly.

 

One of the hospitals featured, Mount Sinai in New York City, has seen patient satisfaction scores for its Geriatric ER go “off the scoreboard.”  Given that healthcare organizations typically bring up the rear in customer experience rankings, how is Mount Sinai achieving such remarkable results?

 

The answer is that they’re applying some time-tested customer experience management principles – albeit in a venue that rarely demonstrates any real customer orientation.  Here are just a few of the strategies the hospital is employing:

 

·         Personalize the experience.  This is a about a lot more than just calling patients by name!  Personalization also involves architecting the experience in a way that aligns with the needs and interests of the target consumer (in this case, an elderly ER patient).  For Mount Sinai, that means a facility with things like non-skid floors and hand rails along the walls – accoutrements that are especially relevant to this audience.

 

·         Preempt service failure.  In this context, service failure is when, for example, the ER patient loses their footing and suffers a new injury – while in the ER!  Or the patient becomes confused, disoriented and difficult to manage.  The hospital has considered where and how things are most likely to go wrong for these elderly patients, and preempts many of these issues through environmental design and staff training.

 

·         Be accessible.  Mount Sinai has an iPad in each room of the Geriatric ER, so patients can contact a nurse – and have a face-to-face video chat – when they need something or have a concern.  Presuming these iPads are easy for the patients to operate, they not only provide good accessibility to the ER staff, but do so in a warmer, more personalized way than is possible with a two-way intercom.

 

While there are probably elements of these Geriatric ERs that would benefit patients of all ages, it’s still an encouraging first step. 

 

Rarely do you see healthcare providers evaluating their patient experience through a customer lens, and then taking action to enhance it.  For those that do, it’s a real prescription for success.