I had the pleasure of speaking to many of you this month in Boston at the 5th Annual Thought Leadership on Access Symposium (ATLAS) and I shared my own ideas on the customer experience. I shared my own personal stories of giving birth, of growing up with a dad who worked in the ER as a doctor for 35 years, and how today we are seeing the consumerization of healthcare. I met many of you and really enjoyed hearing how you work to create an improved patient experience for your healthcare clients. If you saw my closing keynote you know I believe customer experience is key in healthcare. The goal should be to create an experience that meets each customer’s needs in a personalized and convenient way. Systemness is a powerful way to join together the various aspects of healthcare to create a cohesive experience for customers.
Systemness brings together multiple teams, components or systems into a centralized and cohesive plan. Dr. Nancy L. Zimpher, former chancellor of SUNY, defined it this way: “Systemness is the coordination of multiple components that when working together create a network of activity that is more powerful than any action of individual parts on their own.”
Systemness can be used in just about any industry. SUNY uses systemness to bring together its 30 community colleges to a cohesive education plan, and a finance company could use systemness to unite its various branches around a central goal. But systemness has incredible potential in health systems. As it stands now, patients often have to call one number to make an appointment, then repeat themselves as they fill out paperwork and wait for a doctor. If they have to visit multiple doctors or get lab work done, they could end up talking to multiple people, repeating themselves and jumping through hoops. It’s frustrating and inefficient for everyone involved.
Using systemness, barriers between departments are broken down for a collaborative experience. All departments in the health system work towards the same goal—to create a great customer and patient experience. They operate on the same internal systems, share patient data, and coordinate schedules with provider availability. In a way, systemness is the same as omnichannel, but it’s focused on creating measurable differences with existing customers. Each individual area of the health system may be able to provide a good customer experience, but coming together with systemness allows the overall experience to improve.
A key part of effectively using systemness is understanding data. Think of data as the thread that ties everyone together. When all departments have access to the same data—both for patients and providers—they can collaborate and work together to find the best treatment options for patients. Data can also be used to determine the best staffing options to ensure all patient needs are met. It’s similar to the concept from Moneyball of using data and statistics to determine the best baseball players to put on a team.
"If statistics could be used to determine when to put a player up to bat, why couldn't we use data to inform when to put physicians up to bat?,” says Graham Gardner, MD CEO & Co-founder at Kyruus. “Why couldn't we use data to match them with the kinds of patients, cases, and opportunities where they excelled?” Many health systems that follow systemness use data-rich programs to find trends and best allocate resources.
Although it’s clear that systemness is valuable in healthcare, very few health systems have managed to truly break down the silos and find success. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to systemness, especially in healthcare where the systems tend to be complex and literally involve live and death choices.
However, even small changes can help move towards systemness and can make a big difference, both for customer experience and for the bottom line. The base for systemness is as simple as using the same types of job titles, workforce analytics, and career development plans throughout the entire health system.
When the entire system is working toward the same goal, the system can allocate physicians that align with those goals. Physician engagement can focus on the key drivers and measurement tools to reach those goals, which should focus on patient satisfaction. When leaders have a complete view of the entire healthcare system, they can fill in gaps as needed and have a better idea of what needs to change to be more efficient and grow the customer experience.
Systemness doesn’t mean an end to individual departments. The company is still organized, but the key is that goals, information, and programs flow seamlessly throughout the entire organization.
Systemness can transform customer experience in healthcare. By bringing together an entire health system to truly focus on the needs of the patients, revenue and customer satisfaction can reach new heights. Thank you for connecting with me at the ATLAS conference and I wish you the best in your pursuit of systemness and an improved patient experience.
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