AORN Blog - The Periop Life

3 Steps to Better Identify Patient Types

3 Steps to Better Identify Patient Types

December 7, 2017     

When you walk into an Apple store you are met with a sales associate asking polite, yet probing questions. There is a very clear strategy to these questions—to determine what kind of consumer you are.

This same approach to discern the different types of consumer is needed in health care to accommodate the disruptive innovations emerging that are allowing the patient to take a more active and informed role in dictating their care, explains Nicholas Webb, a partner at Lassen Scientific, Inc., a management consulting firm that works with health care organizations to achieve strategic results and patient experiences. Webb also serves as an adjunct professor and director of the Center for Innovation at the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California.

“Patients will do their research, seek out the facilities with positive feedback on social media and surgical outcome ratings, and choose their location and physician for surgery accordingly,” he says. “Since patients have no way to really judge a good or bad surgery, it’s the experience that they judge and share with others.”

Webb works with health care organizations across the country to help them better understand what their patients truly want from their care experience. Acknowledging a patient’s specific needs as a consumer is key in applying patient experience design to surgical care, a change that Webb says needs to be happening now in order to improve that experience.

So, how can perioperative professionals at all levels shift their mindset to better understand the types of consumers their patients are?

The first step is to stop considering patients as a “monolithic demographic” and start focusing on a patient’s loves and hates, he explains. In other words, “we need to understand WHO patients are, not WHAT they are demographically.”

Webb says there is no one set of customer types you can simply apply in your care setting. Instead, an organization has to identify its own customer types and then take that information to design “relevant, exceptional consumer experiences.”

Webb suggests three steps to identify your customer types.

Step 1: Brainstorm

Ask what commonly known attributes of the human experience might impact your customers. For example, in preoperative care does a patient crave human connection through conversation or have they done their research on the surgeon and hospital and are more interested in moving right through to the procedure. Then do two things: compare your answers to known data about your customers and observe your customers’ experiences throughout their surgical care.

Step 2: Refine

Listen to what your patients are saying about their surgical experience to further uncover their loves and hates. Then break down this input according to different touchpoints during their experience, from the moment they consider surgery to after they are recovered from a procedure.

Step 3: Test

Take your perceived customer types and test them through the complete patient care experience, asking patients along the way what they love and hate. Take this opportunity to also talk to providers and employees working with patients to understand what they love and hate about their work and how they interact with patient customers.

Armed with these insights, perioperative professionals will have a clearer understanding of what’s important to making a perioperative patient feel positive – or not – about their surgical experience and how to better meet their needs.

Perioperative leaders can learn more from Webb about disruptive innovation and consumerism in patient experience design at AORN’s Executive Leadership Summit in New Orleans, March 25–27.

Additional Resources

Read Webb’s book What Customers Crave to learn more about creating relevant and memorable experiences for consumers (patients).