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Put Your Customers In Focus with Patient Experience Mapping

By: Kellie Duci, Alex VanderEls

Public health emergencies, staffing shortages, and disruptions to the global supply chain are just a few of the barriers the healthcare industry has encountered over the past several years. This environment has proven to be a challenge when delivering the high level of services that patients and customers have come to expect.

So what can healthcare organizations do to maintain resilience while ensuring their products make it to those who need them most? They must focus on their customer — the patient — and dedicate themselves to a patient-centric model. Experience mapping (sometimes referred to as journey mapping) allows organizations to build a competitive advantage by tapping into and thoroughly understanding their customers’ needs.

The techniques used in patient journey mapping can help companies identify opportunities to build trust and improve customer support while also enabling them to adapt to changing social, competitive, and geopolitical conditions. As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, it’s critical that organizations recognize patient experience mapping as more than just a tool to drive meaningful change — but a continuous practice required to remain competitive.

What Is Patient Experience Mapping & Why Is It Important?

Research found that between 2010 and 2019, an average of 38 new drugs were approved each year — a 60 percent increase compared to the previous decade. With that number continuing to rise amidst increasingly volatile market conditions, organizations must understand where they fit into a patient’s journey if they want to improve productivity without sacrificing the value offered to patients. When deployed correctly, a patient journey map can organize and communicate information about how the company’s actions and customer interactions contribute to the success (or failure) of a patient’s treatment plan.                     

What Patient Experience Mapping Does

Experience mapping explores what a person is thinking, feeling, and questioning during a defined period of time (for example, during a course of treatment). The results found during experience mapping make it easier to define a customer’s pain points, uncover growth opportunities, and re-align processes with desired business outcomes to benefit both the company and the patient.

Patient experience maps analyze the different stages of care and sort patient events into distinct categories. Below are a few examples of these categories:

  • Emotional — A patient who experiences needle anxiety may fail to adhere to the treatment schedule.
  • Medical — A patient’s pre-existing condition interacts with the treatment unexpectedly.
  • Practical — A patient who has difficulty getting to and from treatment centers due to a lack of transportation may opt to forgo treatment.

A clear picture of the patient’s experience makes it easier to design support services and resolve problems before they become significant issues or impact adherence. Furthermore, we can optimize patient programs more effectively by considering the patient’s well-being, loved ones, and journey during treatment. Patient experience mapping adds much-needed empathy to process optimization and can reaffirm a company as a leader in the mode of treatment and the service it offers.

Why Patient Experience Mapping Matters

Patient experience mapping is a crucial, proactive measure that can reveal ways to address process gaps or opportunities before beginning a new project or program. Whether the product is a surgical device that’s long been on the market or a prescription drug in its trial stage, patient support systems and change initiatives will benefit from a better understanding of the end-to-end patient experience.

Customer Service with Heightened EQ

Organizations looking to strengthen their patient-centric focus will explore implementing new care delivery models but may not recognize one of the most vital factors in customer care: emotional intelligence (EQ). Improving organizational EQ can help bridge the gap between distressed customers and a customer service team — and patient experience mapping can fast-track the emotional understanding teams need to de-escalate tensions with compassion.

Imagine a pharma company is rolling out a new drug and is preparing its customer service team to provide support for the product. By mapping out a patient experience prior to launch, a company can prepare its team to manage rightfully concerned customers with the sensitivity the situation necessitates.

Maintaining Adherence and Improving Outcomes

In the healthcare industry, ensuring patients can maintain their quality of life should be the first priority. 

By concentrating on improving adherence rates and treatment outcomes, not only do patients benefit, but companies do as well. Patients following through with prescribed treatments drive refill rates and improved clinical outcomes, leading to stronger revenue and overall improvement in patient health. A patient experience map can serve as a great first step in identifying any barriers to adherence.

Patient journey maps may even help a company identify ways to support patients post-treatment, leading to product and service innovations that can bolster testimonials and garner trust from patients who may be considering other treatment methods.

Where SEI Consultants Can Help

It’s no secret that the digital age has heightened consumers’ expectations regarding product quality, delivery speed, and customer service. Factors such as the global pandemic have challenged these assumptions and stressed organizations’ ability to deliver on those expectations. In this industry, missing the mark can mean more than just upsetting customers. For many, these products are necessary to maintain their quality of life.

In a consumer confidence survey conducted by Gallup, the pharma industry had the lowest approval rating out of a list of 25 sectors, including the federal government, oil and gas, and more. It’s a stark figure, leaving many in the industry wanting to shed this reputation and provide better overall care — but how?

Companies in the healthcare sector looking to align their actions with change initiatives must adopt a patient-centric focus. SEI is an experienced partner that can guide pharma and med device companies looking to discover the benefits of patient experience mapping, pinpoint performance issues, and identify new growth opportunities.

Case Study: How SEI Helped A Med Device Client Navigate Crisis Using Patient Experience Mapping Techniques

A med device company that produces drug and pharmaceutical products approached SEI for help dealing with critical supply chain issues affecting the delivery of chronic treatment products to their patients. A short-staffed manufacturing team hindered the client’s ability to produce products at full capacity, leading to an increase in the time it took to get that product through the distribution network. The company received an influx of support tickets from customers and healthcare providers raising concerns about the overall availability of products and the outlook for the future.

Utilizing patient experience mapping practices to identify issues throughout the supply chain, SEI was able to help triage issues and prioritize solutions. A top priority for the team was determining how to make and move products quickly and ensure everyone — not just the client-facing staff — could recognize how our decisions and actions impact the patients’ ability to adhere to treatment.

By working as part of the client’s crisis management team and in tandem with senior executive-level members of the leadership team, we developed a plan that returned the client’s production and distribution to pre-crisis levels. A few pivotal moves included:

  • Emphasizing the importance of using the right tool at the right time based on patient needs created a flexible, high-touch communications approach that could quickly prioritize and address patient issues.
  • Switching from online knowledge portals and support systems to a call center approach which allowed staff to more intimately address patient concerns, de-escalate fears, and help restore confidence to customers and partners throughout the supply chain.
  • Understanding the patient experience helped the team to manage customer expectations while providing appropriate resources to meet the unique and specific needs of each patient’s situation.

Elevate the Patient Experience With SEI

The medical and pharma world is rapidly changing. With unpredictable global events shaping customers’ expectations, understanding the end-to-end patient experience is invaluable for retaining customer confidence and maintaining a competitive advantage.

Whether your organization is considering redefining its approach to product management or undergoing a digital transformation, strengthen your strategy with a comprehensive patient experience mapping project led by SEI. In order to implement new tools and solutions, our consultants can assist with vendor selection and even work with existing CRMs to help our clients provide the best service throughout the patient journey. 

Learn more about how SEI can help elevate your patient experience with experience mapping and reach out to us today.

Kellie Duci

Consultant

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Alex VanderEls

Consultant

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