How Starbucks Can Teach Healthcare Organizations How To Improve The Patient Experience

Over the past 20 years, increased access to information, heightened availability of products and services, and 24/7 connectivity have altered and increased consumer expectations. They now require convenience, immediacy, flexibility and continuity from all the organizations they interact with – including healthcare providers. Consumers are demanding that organizations ‘show them they know them’ by providing them with highly relevant communications and offerings that are communicated on their terms.

Best-in-class retailers are among those entities that have transformed their businesses to better meet these heightened expectations. Healthcare providers, on the other hand, have largely struggled to do so. To bridge this gap, these providers might be wise to look to these retailers for examples of how to think about patients and the data they provide.

Starbucks, for instance, has developed an app that draws on purchase history to create a one-on-one relationship with consumers. The retailer uses its personalized loyalty program to offer product recommendations and promotions uniquely tailored to each customer. The app even enables Starbucks to track, recognize and respond to the preferences of users who haven’t joined the program and use the app solely to place an order.

To make this possible, Starbucks—and other retailers with similar capabilities—have had to reconsider how information, data, and insights are exchanged across the entire organization. At the same time, it’s important to remember that privacy and regulatory considerations are of extreme importance in the healthcare industry – much more than in the retail world. After all, consumers probably don’t mind if word gets out about how many more coffee purchases they need to make before they earn a free one. But when it comes to their health information, confidentiality is crucial.

Still, many healthcare providers today talk about more effective communication and using data to improve the patient experience – yet it often fails to live up to these promises.

According to research conducted by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), almost half the patients surveyed felt that communication among healthcare providers could be improved. Further research conducted by the Canadian Medical Association found that only 8% of physicians indicated that their patients could review their own health records online, and 6.5% reported that their patients could book appointments online.

Why is this so important? Insufficient communication in the healthcare space has been shown to negatively impact patient empowerment and actual health outcomes. While healthcare providers are more tightly regulated than retailers, they perhaps need to take more of a ‘customer’ approach to patient care – making better use of data and insights to build better experiences and improve their operations.