Q&A: Taking a Customer-Centric Approach to Healthcare

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The healthcare industry is undergoing a dramatic shift. In addition to the changes that are occurring as a result of the Affordable Care Act, healthcare insurers and practitioners -- including physicians, hospitals, and clinics - will increasingly have to compete for customers (patients) as consumers take a more active role in their treatment and also exercise greater choice in the healthcare providers and practitioners they use.

The healthcare industry is undergoing a dramatic shift. In addition to the changes that are occurring as a result of the Affordable Care Act, healthcare insurers and practitioners -- including physicians, hospitals, and clinics - will increasingly have to compete for customers (patients) as consumers take a more active role in their treatment and also exercise greater choice in the healthcare providers and practitioners they use.In order to retain and attract customers, healthcare providers will need to become more customer-centric, particularly as customers become ever-more discriminating about the level of care and experiences they expect to receive.

While healthcare insurers are on the front-lines of these competitive changes, some physician groups are also striving to become more customer centric. I recently had an opportunity to speak with Dr. David F. Silver, M.D., the founder of The Women's Institute for Gynecologic Cancer & Special Pelvic Surgery about steps that the Center Valley, PA-based organization is taking to provide more convenient and customer-centric care.

Q: What have you been able to draw from your experience as a physician with regards to patient-centric care in the U.S. healthcare system?

Silver: You can't separate patient centricity from the immense amount of patient data that's available. Not only are patients more involved, they're becoming more forward in their care. There is a lot of motivation behind this and healthcare reform is behind this.

Q: What are some ways in which The Women's Institute is striving to provide patient-centric care?

S: The Women's Institute offers two distinct services, both built around patient centricity. The first is around providing gynecological oncologists in regions where there are shortages. Twenty percent of the country is undermanned with gynecological oncologists and women often have to travel great distances to receive care. These women require treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, and emotional and nutritional support. Asking someone to travel hours to receive this level of care is unreasonable. We're bringing the care to patients in their community. We're using videoconferencing and other technologies to bridge that gap. We'll also visit the local hospital periodically to offer our guidance and proctoring.

The second service we offer we call Women's Institute Consulting. We provide one-on-one consulting with a patient who has been diagnosed with gynecological cancer. This includes finding out what's important to her, coordinating all necessary care with each of her providers and making it as stress-free as possible. We operate 24/7 to offer this service to people in remote areas or those who don't have access to a coordinated care team.

Q: What are some of the key considerations for understanding and responding to the needs and concerns of female patients in your area of expertise?

S: That's a question you could talk about for hours. Women in our country have so many responsibilities now. They're not only responsible for their own care but for the care of their own families, financial responsibilities, etc. We have a very holistic approach to addressing patient desires and needs. Many times there is fertility or hormonal issues that have to be discussed as part of treatment and there are options that can be offered. We try to touch on anything that might be concerning for any individual. When we work with physicians providing care to women, they're armed with the same type of information to address the patient.

Q: Some industry observers believe that a more patient-centric approach to healthcare will become increasingly important for physician groups, clinics, and hospitals to embrace as the healthcare industry continues to evolve and patients exercise greater choice in their selection of providers. How do you see this?

S: There's no question that healthcare reform is creating more opportunities for patients to be in greater control of their decisions and outcomes. Honestly, that is separate from what The Women's Institute's motivations are. We believe patient centricity improves patient outcomes. Our motivation is the patient and we sincerely believe that including the patient in her care is critical to providing better outcomes for that patient.

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