Trending on social media is the tragic story of a seven year old who died of dengue after allegedly being treated for 15 days at Fortis Hospital, Gurgaon. The family says it was handed a bill of INR 18 Lakhs. Twitter User “DopeFloat” was the first to tweet about his friend’s plight. To support his arguments, DopeFloat also put up pictures of the 20 page bill. Could a planned customer experience journey have helped the patient, her family – and the hospital?
Allegedly, the hospital refused to release the child despite there being evidence of extreme brain damage. The tweets say they also refused to provide them with an ambulance as they were taking the child away against medical advice.
Fortis responded to the tweet thread saying that they would look into the matter. It also said that the hospital had provided services in accordance with standard medical protocols and adhering to all clinical guidelines.
The general trend on social media is of assigning deliberate malice to institutions like hospitals, schools, and transport companies when things go wrong. But the fact is no business wants to deliberately harm its customers. It’s not just a question of morality -I have argued in the past that marketers can’t have morals – but poor business sense. It’s bad for your brand. Moreover as individuals most people in these organisations want to do the right thing.
So why do cases like the above happen? And how can we prevent them? It’s a question of process – the customer experience process and the operations process not being in sync. Here’s what the operations process looks like
- The hospital is worried about malpractice so they would like to follow a process of doing everything possible, even if the probability of success is remote.
- The protocol is often prescribed by the regulatory bodies and a case-based deviation could result in allegations of negligence.
- Fees pay the rents and salaries like in every other business, but puts hospitals in an uncomfortable position – can one deny treatment for non-payment? Should they be paid on performance when they take up ‘no-hope’ cases and yet succeed? This business anxiety results in lots of checks and balances to ensure payment which are undoubtedly irritating if not financially crippling to the impacted family.
Let’s look at the customer-side
- The patient – or their family – has very little knowledge of what’s happening and why
- Fixed visiting hours are way better from a hospital perspective but really inconvenient for the loved ones
- The insistence of cash-and-carry (if you’re not covered by insurance or a fat deposit) is physically painful for the designated attendant who has to buy each glove and syringe and pill as and when needed
- The hospital customer experience process has not been designed to educate patients or reduce their confusion – it is built around medical efficiency. Our legal framework probably doesn’t allow for a lot of leeway in these regulated industries.
It would be interesting to see if hospitals were willing to undertake a customer journey exercise at least for non-critical illnesses. Hospitals are no longer the realm of non-profits and governments and so, like other businesses, they need to consider a patient-centric approach and design a customer experience that tries to make the process a little better. Nothing is going to console a parent who has just lost their child but a better approach could attempt to not make things worse. Just as large employers have a well-set process for what happens when an employee exits (voluntary/involuntary/retires etc), there could be different processes for handling exits from a hospital based on whether the outcome was positive, negative or neutral. It is difficult, but required.
It’s not just hospitals – educational institutions are ripe for transformation too. There the outcomes are not immediate, the process of education is unclear to the customer(student) and their parents, and again payment is a sore point as the deliverables are qualitative in many cases. Some exits are troubling too. Again the system is built around the convenience of the institution with most meetings scheduled on week days. Just as in hospitals the CAPEX required to know run a good school has gone significantly up, increasing the stakes for both parties.
A customer experience journey that maps and provisions for eventualities – good and bad – and tries to mitigate the worst outcomes could make the world a happier place. It’s also good business.