The diagnostic laboratories, which have two distinct arms of pathology and radiology, play an integral and a significant role in the healthcare industry. Before a course of medical action is initiated, doctors study the results of laboratory tests, which help them decide on the appropriate medical procedures. The diagnostic laboratories, thus, help to improve the overall patient care. Further, they also help to massively limit the spending on healthcare. For instance, the reports by diagnostic labs expedite the diagnosis and treatment of a disease, decreasing the time a patient spends in the hospital. Also, the costs associated with trial-and-error treatments are minimized. Hence, it would not be incorrect to say that diagnostic chains are the heart of the healthcare industry.
According to a report released by Edelweiss, diagnostic services account for only 4% of the overall healthcare spend in India. However, it is predicted that the figure will increase in near future. Moreover, with the awareness in preventive medicine, the importance of diagnostic chains has increased to unprecedented levels in the recent past.
What differentiates diagnostic laboratories from the rest of the healthcare industry?
There are significant differences between diagnostic chains and other entities in the healthcare industry. I believe because of these peculiarities of a diagnostic laboratory, the patient satisfaction surveys need a different approach. Here are a few characteristics of diagnostic chains that differentiate them from hospitals in particular. I also share the implication of each on patient feedback.
It is a fast-moving business
Unlike hospitals, diagnostic chains are a fast-moving business. Patients seldom have a reason to stay back for long periods of time in a diagnostic center. They just deposit the necessary samples for diagnosis and the transaction ends there. Because of this nature of the business, the diagnostic laboratory is judged on how quickly and accurately it delivers the final report. A patient expects things to move quickly in a diagnostic lab. In such a scenario, the turnaround time on patient feedback must also be prompt. If critical hours are lost in acting on feedback, patients might encounter a poor experience.
The price difference in services offered is marginal
Some hospitals can charge a higher price than the others by claiming the presence of senior doctors. Also, the prices could vary depending on the services provided at a hospital. However, the diagnostic industry does not have such luxuries. Since the processes and services are pretty standardized, the prices in this industry are extremely competitive. In absence of a great patient experience, there is no reason for someone to choose a specific lab over another.
The consumer base is huge and diverse
The number of customers that a single diagnostic center serves on an average is far greater than that served by a hospital. Because a diagnostic chain business is generally spread out in geography, the customer expectations and cultural influences are also very diverse across the chain. Providing a consistent and uniform experience to all these customers is essential to building a strong brand. In a way, the diagnostic chains are akin to the retail businesses, which serve a vast range of customers every day. Hence, I believe that the benchmarking of a diagnostic center with respect to its customer experience must not be done with hospitals; rather, it should be compared to retail brands.
Importance of patient feedback in a diagnostic chain
In a diagnostic chain, it is critical to collect patient feedback and act diligently on it. Here are a few reasons that reiterate the importance of patient feedback in such a business.
Cost of switching for patients is low
With the intense competition in the diagnostic service business, the cost of moving from one brand to another is very low for patients. As discussed earlier, the prices of services offered at most of the chains are similar. Further, unlike a doctor-patient relationship, there might not be a personal relationship that is established in this scenario. Hence, unless the patient has had a great experience, he might not have any reason to continue his relationship with that center.
Customer retention is very important
There is no denying that the diagnostic chain business is a capital-intensive one. The equipment and machinery required in both the radiology and the pathology arms are expensive to procure and maintain. So, while customer retention is important in any business, it becomes all the more crucial in this business. Collecting patient feedback regularly and taking corrective action on that feedback will help improve patient retention and therefore increase profitability.
How to use feedback effectively in a diagnostic chain
1. Obtain feedback digitally
Paper-based feedback forms are not cost effective anymore. The cost of printing, re-printing, feedback collection, collation, analysis, and reporting makes the entire process unsustainable. On the other hand, collecting patient feedback using a feedback management solution like Omoto would not just reduce the long-term cost of feedback management, it would also offer real-time data analysis and reporting. The world today is digital; feedback that is collected also must follow the trend.
2. Use Net Promoter Score
Considering the vast customer base and the quick transactional time, the best way to collect feedback in a diagnostic chain is by using the Net Promoter Score question. This question is short, converting into higher response rates. Moreover, the data gives an accurate picture of the loyalty of a customer. It is also the only empirically proven metric that can be an indicator of the financial performance of a company.
3. Adopt robust technology for analysing feedback
Because the volumes of data collected are huge in a diagnostic chain, the best way to analyse the feedback is by using new-age technology. Also, because most diagnostic chains have multiple centers across cities, manual feedback collection and analysis is not only impractical but also not feasible.
Vivek Jaiswal, the founder of Omoto – an omnichannel feedback solution used by leading diagnostic chains across India, says, “In today’s world, having data insight is a competitive advantage for a business.” This emphasizes how any diagnostic chain must do all it can to derive insights from the data that it collects.
4. Set up a centralised feedback redressal team
To avoid any manipulation or tampering of the feedback collected, a centralized team must be set up to act on the feedback. This team could work both internally and externally on feedback received. For instance, it could work on the external follow-up with respondents and subsequently, on the internal closure of a feedback by getting in touch with the relevant department.
5. Report feedback summary to management on a daily basis
The data and feedback collected must be reported on a periodic basis, preferably daily, with the management team. Sharing the customer experience data on a daily basis serves two critical purposes. Firstly, it keeps the management team informed about what’s working and what’s not working for the customer. Secondly, it ensures that the management is aligned with customers’ expectation when making critical business decisions. However, it is important that the summary report doesn’t just contain numbers. Rather, it must share the verbatim comments of customers so that anyone reading the report can feel the human emotion behind each feedback.