Reflections on HealthSparq’s 2016 Client Summit

Last week was HealthSparq’s third annual client summit. Our theme was HealthCare 3.0 and how it will be driven by consumers. We invited experts to challenge us, presented where HealthSparq is headed as a company and facilitated networking among all of the health plans we invited to attend. It was a very valuable few days for us as a company, and we hope, for our clients as well.

A few key reflections from what was said (and not said) during the summit:

The patient-provider relationship continues its rapid evolution

When Dr. Danny Sands, Health IT and participatory medicine expert, took the stage at this year’s summit, he had the room captivated. We brought Dr. Sands as a compliment to last year’s summit, where we heard the powerful story that his patient and now business partner, e-Patient Dave DeBronkhart, had to share. Both ePatient Dave and Dr. Sands are passionate patient advocates and important voices for the health care industry to hear.

Adding to his role as a patient advocate at this year’s summit, Dr. Sands’ perspective of a health care provider pushed the conversation further. He highlighted the shifting paradigm for providers in health care, emphasizing that physicians “need to be partners, not oracles; healers, not burdens.” He says they need to work with their patients, much as health plans need to work with their members, to meet them when and where they need us and work with them throughout their health care experience. This is what people are increasingly demanding and expecting.

If We’re Going to Talk About Consumers, Let’s Talk to Consumers!

My favorite session at all of our summits is our consumer panel. We literally take people off the street and put them up in front of our health plan partners. We encourage complete honesty, and they always deliver. They don’t hold back. This year, we once featured a group of men and women from a variety of backgrounds and ages to simply share their views on the health care system — and we weren’t disappointed. The faces around the room showed concern, a little shock, some humor, certainly some surprise at the fact that our panelists didn’t hold back with their opinions. Needless to say, we were pleased with how open and honest our group of panelists were.

We asked the panelists to give one word to describe their experience with health care. What we heard was: frustrating, mediocre, confusing, forced, hustled and archaic. We know this can change and we are excited to be working with our clients to make things better for their members and employees.

Consumers demanded clarity, education, accessible communications and price transparency – as a start.

What the panel showed us was that as an industry, we have to listen to the bad along with the good as we work to make ourselves more consumer-centric. The messages from our panelists were clear: Health care has a big job to do and it’s falling short.

Learning from the best in other industries

What does health care have to learn from the Ritz-Carlton? Customer-first-oriented customer service.

As the consumer panel showed, the health care industry struggles in the customer service department. So, we brought in Jennifer Blackmon, corporate director of culture transformation at the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center to tell us how to be better. First and foremost, we have to understand that “customer services is defined by the way you make people feel.”

Jennifer recounted story after story of how the Ritz far exceeds customer expectations. The secret? A focus on and empowering their employees to wow customers.

Imagine of an interaction with a health plan, a doctor, a hospital far exceeded your expectations? That’s what the Ritz modeled for us.

Dovetailing perfectly with our consumer panel, we were challenged to not let busy be an excuse for poor customer service. We can’t let how busy or bogged-down in work we get dictate our behavior. We have to be better – consumers do notice. One consumer panelist perhaps said it best, we can’t forget that who we are serving is “human beings, not toys or line items.”

So overall, it was a great couple of days. New ideas were shared, new friends were made and we successfully re-inserted real people as the focal point.