Four Lessons From Patient Experience to Improve Healthcare Recruiting

Take What You Know About Patient Experience and Apply It To Candidate & Employee Experience

Keep in touch on all sides
BY SALEEM KHAJA

Healthcare was a bit of a bellwether when it comes to customer experience. Patient satisfaction surveys broke onto the scene in 1985 and soon survey companies were helping healthcare organizations learn from the data and use it to improve their patient experiences.

Compensation has been tied to patient satisfaction scores and, on the federal level, depended on for hospital reimbursement. And since results of the HCAHPS (the standardized survey administered to hospital inpatients after discharge) became public in 2005, scores for U.S. hospitals, practices and healthcare agencies have consistently increased.

That improvement hasn’t happened by chance. Today, at least 44% of healthcare organizations have a Chief Patient Experience Officer and many, like the Cleveland Clinic, have made patient experience a strategic priority.

Using HCAHPS, proprietary surveys, real-time feedback and other studies powered by patient input, healthcare providers build a deeper understanding of what patients need — and how those needs (including how diagnoses are delivered, how data is shared with the patient, what color the walls should be painted, how treatments are planned or even what bedside manner looks like) differ between generations and geographies.

A case-in-point study

“By spelling out the problems in a systematic, sustained fashion,” the Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Office helped people across the global organization understand that “patient dissatisfaction was a significant issue and that all employees, even administrators and janitors, were ‘caregivers’ who should play a role in fixing it.”

Getting serious about patient experience transformation meant putting budget and staff into changing mindsets — inside the organization and out.

Processes were created. Metrics set. Performance measured and iterated on for continuous improvement. The Office of Patient Experience also “communicated intensively with prospective patients to set realistic expectations for what their time in the hospital would be like.” Transparency, two-way communication and real-time feedback changed the game.

Within a few years of kicking off its transformation, the Cleveland Clinic rose to the top of rankings and improved its efficiency in delivering care too. Patient satisfaction wasn’t a metric. Patient experience wasn’t simply a strategy. For it to be sustainable and systematic, patient experience became ingrained in the culture. It was a way of life.

Healthcare candidate & employee experience is a way of life, too

To compete for healthcare talent today, hospitals and other healthcare organizations need to turn the same strategic energy toward candidate and employee experience. Patient experience has taught these organizations to listen. To collect data. To grow from it.

By applying these best practices to candidates and employees, healthcare organizations can improve their employer brand, grow their networks exponentially and optimize their talent pool.

Demand for healthcare workers isn’t going anyplace but through the roof. Only the hospitals, systems and healthcare organizations that invest in candidate and employee experience will be prepared to respond to changing needs and workforce demographics.

To that end, we’re taking a look at four ways lessons from patient experience can influence and improve the way your healthcare organization delivers optimal candidate and employee experiences that make you stand out.

Four patient experience lessons that can improve candidate & employee experience:

1. Importance of Personalization

Patients today are empowered consumers. They tend to engage with information that responds to their personal needs. A patient coming in for a routine check-up shouldn’t get the same communications as the patient who’s 36-weeks pregnant or the one on their second round of chemotherapy.

And none of these patients wants to be left in the dark about how their appointment went or what to do next. Same goes for candidate and employee communications.

Personalization isn’t simply mail-merging their first name into an email salutation. It’s listening. Deeply. It’s knowing their communication preferences. Where they are in the hiring process — or their career. Sending a text instead of calling when it’s the better move. Giving feedback after an interview or as they work toward professional goals. Knowing how their manager can do better, too.

Regular check-ins via email or text, follow-up surveys or team polls can supply a persistent flow of data to learn from and to customize what you’re communicating and how.

Qualitative feedback and comments can be even more compelling than stats. Reading and hearing it in their own words can help you understand and empathize like never before. Ask questions in real-time when you’re talking to candidates; request feedback in the moment after meetings with employees. Remember: personalization isn’t about knowing a person’s name. It’s about knowing the person — and showing it.

2. Power of Automation

Delivering holistic experiences that make patients feel supported, informed, understood and cared for requires a level of human connection that, quite frankly, few organizations have the bandwidth for.

Administrative burden often diminishes the personal connection needed for a positive patient experience. That’s why almost 75% of healthcare leaders are interested in ways automation and AI can help. In fact, it’s been shown that automating low-level tasks in ops and administration can lower costs and improve patient experience.

Candidate and employee engagement automation helps you create the time and space needed to personalize and iterate on the experiences you’re delivering — and then scale that experience to every candidate in your healthcare talent pool and every employee in your healthcare organization.

You can also apply automation to your referral program — the bread-and-butter of many nursing recruitment strategies. Automation can add timely referral requests to your candidate and employee engagement workflows, trigger regular updates to keep referrals and sources in the loop, and send thanks along the way. Folding automated referral management into your strategy can keep your talent pipeline full without added administrative lift.

But there’s more to automation than event-triggered email workflows. AI-driven recruiting chatbots (have you met Sofi?) can put a personal touch on automated conversations with candidates and employees, delivering rich employer brand experiences, fast answers, urgent issue resolution and the quality of service they can expect of you.

Automation and AI can help free up recruiters and HR managers to focus on higher priority tasks, like building relationships with candidates and employees.

3. Need for Continuous Improvement

If you don’t measure performance, there’s little chance you’ll improve it.

That’s why metrics have been central to patient experience since the first survey. Identifying what metrics matter not only lets you know whether your systems are working, but can help you see what marks improvement and where to focus your energy.

But whether we’re talking patient experience, candidate or employee experience, there’s no perfect score. That’s why the most successful experience-driven strategies have continuous improvement at their core. Technology evolves. Generations shift. Preferences change.

The optimal experience isn’t just a moving target. It changes with each person you meet.

A continuous improvement mindset drives your organization to learn from and adapt how you deliver patient, candidate and employee experiences. It means never resting on your laurels, finding new metrics to track and iterating on ways to get better. Now, let’s talk about why.

4. Value of Competition

You better believe when those U.S. News and University HealthSystem Consortium rankings hit the media, hospitals and other healthcare systems are looking around to see how the competition fared.

It’s not only natural. It’s one of the (many) reasons rankings exist in the first place. And it’s one of the factors that’s gotten healthcare to act more like a consumer-focused industry.

“You cannot separate brand from experience,” says Matt Gove, Piedmont Healthcare’s chief consumer officer. “Most successful consumer-facing organizations understand that. But for most of its history, healthcare hasn’t even accepted that it’s a consumer-facing industry.”

Until recently, the same could be said about recruiting.

Priority #1 in measuring, studying and iterating on experience is to make your patients, candidates and employees happy. A close second: to beat the competition. To have those patients come back to you and refer your hospital because of the experience. To attract and retain talent that makes your organization deliver care better than anyone else on the list.

So, keep looking around. Read the competition’s job descriptions, see how they’re running social media, test the experience of their career website, figure out what their employee value proposition is. Most importantly, listen.

In great experiences and bad, people talk. Pay attention to what people are saying — the media, in social media, on review websites — about your organization and the competition.

But don’t do it to get the dirt. Listen to hear the people. To hear their stories, to understand their wants and needs. Do the same for people in your organization. Apply it to your experience strategy. Iterate, improve and get the talent you need.

Get a primer on what candidate & employee experience looks like in healthcare and why it counts.