When reviewing the growing importance of the patient experience over the past 20 years in healthcare, one finds a number of influential factors. Around the world, healthcare consumers are becoming more savvy, payers are demanding high quality care, and research groups have found more and more convincing evidence as to why the ability to prioritize and manage the patient experience is so important to a positive overall healthcare experience. 1
Several organizations support healthcare providers, organizations and systems to understand and improve the patient experience. A few of these organizations include:
A recent article written by Dr. Thomas Lee through the Harvard Business Review highlights How U.S. Health Care Got Safer by Focusing on the Patient Experience. This article in particular raises the point that performance outcomes are correlated – the organizations that have better performance with patient experience also have better performance financially and with patient safety.
The Patient Experience in Medical Travel
In the context of the Medical Travel Care Continuum, recognized by the Global Healthcare Accreditation® (GHA) Program, the spectrum of attention required to improve the patient experience may extend beyond the walls of the actual clinical service provider. More third parties exist in which the patient and caregiver have interactions with during the medical travel care continuum, including hotels, airlines or local transportation. Consider the impact on a patient experience if a pickup at the airport was missed, or if the hotel was unaware of the patient’s arrival.
Economies around the world depend on tourism and subsequent management of a destination’s brand – the importance of this is no different in the medical travel industry, especially when considering the elective medical tourist. Factors influencing the overall perception of a destination in the medical travel industry can include:
• The general environment of the destination
• The medical tourism industry within the destination
• The quality and safety of the facilities within the destination
The conversation regarding the unintended consequence of medical travel – that being what a patient may be subjected to because they are traveling, is crucial to consider and not forgotten when planning strategically within a medical travel program.
Various stakeholders must consider these additional components to ensure a viable and appropriate risk mitigation framework regarding program branding, institutional culture and of course, the medical travel patient experience. Each stakeholder participating in the management of the medical travel patient experience is critical to understanding the sustainability of a medical travel program as well as whether or not confidence can be maintained by leaderships as to its future. As previously mentioned, the medical travel industry includes various non-traditional third parties and/or stakeholders to the “medical travel patient experience” because there are healthcare, hospitality and travel components to consider. These third parties can include:
• Airline industry
• Tour operators
• Travel agents
Globally, healthcare is more competitive and more creative service delivery opportunities are available. Organizations building or managing Medical Travel programs will face new challenges in the years to come – how these third parties and/or stakeholders are educated, managed and monitored will have a direct impact on an organization’s medical travel program and the patient experience it delivers. Hospitals seeking to provide a high quality patient experience should determine the criteria or service expectations these third party vendors should provide and manage the contracts (if these are outsourced), by monitoring the satisfaction of their patients, their alignment in meeting the set criteria, and keeping close communication with these vendors so they are aware of the unique or special needs of their patients.