I just finished reading an opinion piece from Fox News consumer reporter, John Stossel, detailing his experience being treated for lung cancer. He gives thanks for the excellent medical attention he has been receiving but calls out his doctors, the hospital and the health care industry as a whole for what he feels is poor customer service. Sadly, it’s likely his comments resonate with a good number of readers. His piece serves as a wake-up call for those in health care who haven’t realized we must do a better job of focusing on the person at the center of our care.

Given our society’s emphasis on consumerism, the patient’s experience in our care is critical. In my opinion, it needs to be one of the top priorities of every provider. We must take a holistic approach to caring for people. Our responsibility is not limited to providing the best medical advice and interventions; patients’ feelings about, and satisfaction with, their health care journey are every bit as much our concern. I do not look at the medical care someone receives as something separate from their experience; they are invariably linked.

Historically, our industry has organized around doctors and other providers of care—not the patient. While this is changing, the pace of this evolution has to be accelerated. People should enter a health system that is patient-centered and focused completely on their needs—from where they park their car to how they are treated at the registration desk, all the way through the entire care continuum.

As Stossel suggests, as more patients become responsible for the cost of their care and have the ability to shop around, service will become a bigger part of the business equation. But even under the current payment models, more and more patients are realizing they can and should be empowered consumers.

I take issue with Stossel when he compares health care to retail industries—as though selling cars equates with the complexity of delivering medical attention. I think that’s an over simplification. But it’s true that no matter what is being purchased, the experience matters to consumers every bit as much as price and quality.

It’s a simple equation, really: take care of the customer, provide a great product and value… and your business will be successful.

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