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In Ideal Healthcare World, The Patient is the Customer

Jun 18, 2014
In Ideal Healthcare World, The Patient is the Customer
By Randi Redmond Oster

One thing I know is the hospital. Not because I’ve worked there or because I have a medical degree, but because my husband has a pre-existing condition, my 85 year-old mother lives with us and my son has Crohn’s disease. Between the three of them, I’ve sat in hospital waiting rooms at least 20 times. While the circumstances for each of them are different, here is what is similar: I never know how much the treatment will cost in advance and the time we spend with the doctor feels rushed. I can’t think of any other business that has survived when it did not meet customers’ expectations and seemed overpriced.  

It is a common analogy that today’s clinicians are like hamsters on a wheel racing to meet more regulatory requirements and productivity measurements. When asked, one 100-bed hospital said it has 80 regulatory agencies to update between the federal, state and local levels. To increase productivity, doctors are given computers to update required data in the allotted 15-minute office visit.
With the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act this year, many people are covered with health insurance. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Health Economics found that only 14 percent of patients understand basic insurance terms like co-pay, co-insurance, deductible and out-of-pocket expense. It is not uncommon for patients to be surprised how much they have to pay out-of-pocket after-the-fact because of higher deductibles. They wish they knew this upfront.

Data is driving change in the healthcare industry. Some would argue that it allows for more and more measurements without improving the doctor/patient relationship and spins the hamster wheel even faster. Today, a new website from Medicare, Hospital Compare, allows patients access to data reporting measurements including “They ALWAYS received help as soon as they wanted.” When I demonstrated the website to a group of doctors, I asked them if they would use a cable service that was only responsive 67 percent of the time, the national average for getting care in a timely fashion. Naturally, they said, “No.” One doctor said I shouldn’t compare healthcare to a business. Yet, their “customers” are in pain or have bigger issues than getting a television remote control to work.

So the question is this: How can healthcare businesses position themselves and become leaders in patient care, satisfaction and improved outcomes. It starts by empowering the patient, today. It is about educating patients on how to navigate the current system and Questioning Protocol to meet their personal needs.  Focusing on the customer will be the sustainable competitive advantage for healthcare businesses that wins the hearts of their patients, no matter what the health outcome.

Randi Redmond Oster – award winning author of Questioning Protocol, which helps patients navigate the healthcare system and medical professionals understand the patient perspective – will speak June 25 at the Connecticut Health Council’s “The Patient is the Future” program June 25 from 8-9:30 a.m. at the Norwalk Inn and Conference Center, 99 East Avenue, Norwalk.  Randi spent the first 18 years of her career at GE and received a Black Belt in Six Sigma Quality and numerous leadership awards. She will serve on a panel with health care professionals, including:  Dr. Ryan O’Connell, vice president of Performance & Risk Management, Bridgeport Hospital, president, Greater Bridgeport Medical Association; Dr. Daniel Gottschall, FACOG chief medical officer, Women’s Health USA, chairman of the Board, St. Vincent’s Health Services and vice chairman of  the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, St. Vincent’s Medical Center;  and Dr. Peter Bowers, chief medical officer, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. For more information, please go to and


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