Patient Customer Experience: Great Threats & Cures #cx #healthcare

Patient Customer Experience: The Great Slam Bam Mammogram?

What do you expect as a patient? I’ve heard some people respond “just cure me and let me go.” To them, a great customer experience is a successful procedure or cure – period.

Patient Customer Experience: Image is the word "BAM".

Patient Customer Experience: Great Threats and Cures Image by: MITLRproductions

Image by MITLRproductions via Flickr creative commons license.

Yet these folks do not represent an overwhelming majority. To many others, a great patient customer experience involves both medical and non-medical aspects of care.

Do healthcare providers — in hospitals, in outpatient test centers, in doctors offices — see it this way? We might think that the healthcare industry believes this. They use scores like HCAHP and Press Ganey to measure the quality of patient customer experience.

Yet there are significant instances of unsatisfactory patient customer experience which say otherwise. Here’s one such story and lessons learned for a great patient customer experience.

Patient Customer Experience: The Great Slam Bam Mammo?

The Story

    I went for my yearly mammogram as I had done every year. My favorite technician at the radiology center had retired. She had top notch technical skills and great empathy and people skills. I went in with an open mind since the center had a professional caring staff at the front desk.

    It was my turn. A technician came out called my name and said, “please come with me.” She guided me into the changing room and said she would be back shortly. My experience was off to a bad start. She hadn’t even introduced herself. When she came back, she simply said, “ready”? I said no. I don’t even know who you are. She stared at me and then claimed repeatedly that she had introduced herself. She then disappeared and a different technician came in. This one introduced herself and ushered me to the mammogram room.

    She clarified a few items on my chart, put me into position, said “BIG SQUISH” and slammed the paddle down on me. The pain was so bad I yelled out “God help me.” She then asked me if I was OK. She told me that most people like to get this over quickly but she could use slower compression on the other side to make it less painful. She also added they had been quite busy lately and had even run out of regular size gowns. She finished with, “I know you liked Flossie and it must be tough for you to adapt to a different technician.”

4 Threats & Cures for Great Patient Customer Experience

My patient customer experience was needlessly painful — physically and inter-personally. Not only did the technician know that slow compressions hurt less, she consciously chose the slam bam approach. She left the impression that she didn’t give a flip about me. BIG SQUISH – I was just another mammogram.

  • Threat #1 – Uniformity. Treating each customer in a uniform way assumes that everyone is the same. How foolish. Cure: Find out how each person wants to be treated inter-personally and respond accordingly.
  • Threat #2 – Rationalizing and Justifying. This technician convinced herself that my negative feedback came from my having to adapt to a new technician — not her poor service. Cure: See all feedback as free learning and growth. Hear what customers are saying; don’t fear it.
  • Threat #3 – Lack of people skills training. People skills for great patient customer experience are not inborn. Cure: Train all healthcare staff on outstanding people skills and customer service. If you have some staff that are great at it, have them mentor those who have yet to learn!
  • Threat #4 – Great Average Metrics. Great customer experience metrics that are averages of all experiences do not spell greatness. In statistics, the average is one of the most volatile measures because it swings widely with extremes. Cure: Use less volatile statistics to measure patient customer experience. Also look past the numbers and listen to actual comments to design patient customer experience.

I will never return to the radiology center noted above. They have lost a loyal customer of five years who had also referred many others there.

Don’t let this happen to your healthcare practice. Make service and people skills a priority. Referrals don’t come just from other healthcare providers and doctors. Patients refer other patients.

Watch your practice soar to greatness with great referrals from your patients who have had great patience customer experience with you!

How do you define a great patient customer experience?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related post:
One Patient Customer Experience Story That Speaks Volumes About Doctors Offices
Is the Average of 32 Questions on HCAHP Score Really a Patient’s Customer Experience?
Radiology Cares: The Untold Story

©2013 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results. Kate also invites you to connect with her on Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter. She welcomes your interaction!

9 Responses to “Patient Customer Experience: Great Threats & Cures #cx #healthcare”

  1. Hi Kate, OUCH ! I totally relate to that experience and not only in the mammography room. I think it is a kind of bad habit for healthcare providers to not consider the patient as a person but as a disease or a procedure. There are many evidences that people who are treated well feel less pain and recover quicker so why in medical or nurse schools nobody get an exam on their ability to handle patients with care ?

    • Kate Nasser says:

      BAM — you just hit the problem right on the head and with a much better outcome than the pain I suffered from the slam bam mammo. I am getting to the point where I want to donate my time to healthcare providers to teach them the basics of caring — just to know that others won’t suffer.

      I thank you so much Anne for your insight here and your kind and generous empathy.

      Hope you are well. Let’s talk soon about you co-hosting a #peopleskills chat!

  2. Alli Polin says:

    Oh my gosh, Kate! Your mammogram was certainly a memorable one for all the wrong reasons. Recently, my son cut his finger and it was bleeding a lot and he wouldn’t let us look at it so I wrapped it in a towel and we hopped in the car. The triage nurse put him at ease by asking him where he’s from and talking about how she lived nearby. The doctor talked to him, tried to distract him and let him know that he was in good hands despite his flowing tears. While it certainly was not a critical wound, we all walked out feeling good and well cared for not only medically but also personally. A cold or clinical approach would have only made a stressful situation worse.

    Thanks for sharing your real-life example of why people skills truly do make all the difference.

    ~ Alli

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Oh Alli, I am so grateful to you and all others who contribute true life stories to illustrate the value and true power of care. So pleased to know there are health care providers doing a superb job and also thrilled that your son was the recipient of that empathy.

      Be well and happy,

  3. Dan says:

    Hi Kate

    I’ve recently been dealing with a health care issue (peripheral neuropathy) after many years of good health when I didn’t have much contact with the health care system. I was surprised by the changes. My recent experiences have been ones where I found I had to make a much greater investment of patience and take a great deal more initiative in order to get through some uncomfortable experiences. These experiences included rude staff, inaccurate appointments, lack of information alongside inability to contact medical staff by phone or email, absent and/or incorrect testing instructions, mixed messages and communication breakdown between doctors, their staff members, labs, and pharmacies. Of course, I also met some wonderful, very sensitive people, who were kind and often apologetic for the health issues and bureaucracy problems I faced. This was worse in some organizations than others but was even present in ones that had adopted LEAN principles. I would say that the whole system of health care, both the work processes and the people skills applied, needs a LOT of work. And that, I suspect, at bottom is also a deeply cultural issue in many if not most health care organizations. I suspect there are challenging under-leadership gaps. All in all, it seems quite clear that healing organizations themselves need to heal. Relationships with patients are a crucial starting point and leverage point in that effort, and if you track the problems backwards, my guess is you’ll also find not only bad processes, but abusive treatment of nurses and technicians, completely overworked staff members, strung-out managers, disconnected physicians, and mistrusted top leadership. Your experience, to me, like mine, is the tip of an iceberg.


    • Kate Nasser says:

      First of all Dan you have my very best wishes for speedy recovery and better health. Secondly, you continue to amaze me with your incredible depth of analysis of every issue.

      As for the complexity of this issue, I am inclined to agree with you. I have often thought of forming a cooperative of consultants who, with me, might even donate some time to help the healthcare industry transform. Complex doesn’t mean impossible!!

      Many thanks for your empathy, your insight, and your gifts.
      Warmest regards,

      • Dan says:

        Let me know when you want to form that cooperative, Kate. I’m not able to donate time, and my experience of health care organizations is that in fact the money is there — it’s more that the mountain looks pretty daunting. All the best to you and many thanks!


KateNasser on Facebook KateNasser Blog KateNasser on Twitter KateNasser on LinkedIn KateNasser on Pinterest