Managing the customer experience in healthcare delivery


 – develop the capabilities to be intentional about creating memorable experiences

In my dealings with CXP Ghana and Service Excellence Foundation, both of which are in the trenches fighting hard to change the customer relationship management narrative, I have had the privilege of meeting several people who – in my opinion – are bravely battling against the mould to transform how service providers engage with customers and the customer experience. I have met this doctor who is leaving no stone unturned in this quest. The lesson here is that customer experience is multi-functional and can be applied to any business organisation, public sector organisation, or charity.

There are no exceptions. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the nation had to battle the pandemic, creatively leveraging the loyalty of our health professionals to great effect. Many of them fought determinedly to save lives and improve the health conditions of Ghanaians who were unfortunate to be afflicted by the plague. As an incident of the pandemic – and perhaps before, the healthcare and medical sector are paying a lot more attention to patient’s experience and satisfaction. It is generally believed that the satisfaction of patients can affect their future behaviour and their desire to comply with or not comply with health protocols.

Treating patients as valued customers by prioritising their satisfaction, comfort and well-being, and creating a positive and memorable patient experience – much like what is expected of the business world – is no different when we consider healthcare, where striving to create a delightful experience for customers does a world of good. One would assume that to save lives, you need your clients to be in the best condition. A frustrated patient could even get sicker and take a worse turn if the relationship is poor. Healthcare providers must always look for ways to improve the patient experience, however challenging.

Admittedly healthcare providers deal with so many competing priorities and objectives; therefore, in that mix, creating an excellent customer experience may appear pedestrian. Customer experience from a healthcare perspective is a patient’s overall perception of their interaction with a healthcare provider – encompassing all aspects of the customer’s healthcare journey, from initial contact to follow-up care. In this journey, healthcare providers need to build trust with their patients to encourage repeat visits. Customer experience in healthcare must aim to improve the relationship between healthcare providers and their patients.

An enhanced customer experience in healthcare is not dissimilar to that of other sectors. The elements that make customer experience stand out are all applicable here. Here are a few pointers to ponder. First, personalisation – where plans are tailored to meet specific needs of patients. Second, making healthcare accessible to all across multiple channels. Third, transparency – being open and honest with patients. Fourth, empathy – leveraging the ethos of customer experience to share the pain and joy of the customer.  Fifth, quality – where the delivery of safe, effective and efficient care is critical and mutually beneficial to the client and provider.


Technology has enhanced our capacity to learn the behaviour of customers very quickly and more accurately. This has been made possible by the development of machine learning tools that use automatic email triggers to fill out personal details during every encounter with the customer. This capability means that healthcare providers are empowered to better understand patients in a way that makes them feel understood and, thus, provides the trigger for delivering personalised healthcare and building a better customer experience. Healthcare providers can now provide their patients with the most effective treatment possible in an atmosphere of trust and respect.

A worldwide survey conducted in 2020 found that 57 percent of Americans believe the healthcare industry cares more about its own needs than patient needs. It’s time to change this dynamic. By strengthening our capacity to capture customer interaction data, we will mass up an exhaustive record of all customer behaviours and experiences taking place offline and on digital channels such as websites (not so common with us), mobile apps, IoT devices, and others. Today’s consumers are also using their smartwatches and mobile phones as health devices – reading heart rates, monitoring activity levels, and even measuring blood oxygen levels.

To elevate the patient experience we can use real-time data to craft a hyper-personalised experience for each patient who visits the hospital based on who they are, their history, and their current interest (i.e. severe headache). Armed with this information, we can provide relevant tips and offers at the right time in the patient’s journey to demonstrate that you truly understand and value them. For example, a senior citizen may see recommendations for heart health, and a new parent could be presented with recommendations for a child’s ailment such that referrals will not require a rehash of the patient’s history.


Ghana has a 5-tier healthcare access programme. These community-based health planning and services (CHPS) promote basic healthcare for women and children, particularly in remote communities. The health centres provide basic preventive, curative and reproductive healthcare services. The district hospital (DH) is the first referral and comprehensive care hospital in the hierarchy of healthcare delivery. Regional hospitals that provide specialised care are not available at the district hospital and form the next level of referral from the district hospital.

Finally, teaching hospitals are at the apex of healthcare delivery in the country. One area Ghana is working to improve healthcare access is telemedicine. There are centres in urban areas enabling rural communities access to healthcare services through these channels as well as the use of drones to deliver medications in hard-to-reach areas. The patient journey must be planned to address wait times and touchpoints that are well-primed to address patient needs in good time.  The old method of searching for your card among a whole pile while a patient waits in their poor state must become a thing of the past.

Healthcare providers must use process mining techniques that would allow process owners to monitor and analyse identified journeys, and to improve the user experience (e.g., identify key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to increase patient satisfaction). A typical journey will entail the following. Transaction ID: corresponds to the episode identifier. Activity: refers to the phases that involved the patient’s interactions with the clinical services. Transaction diagnosis: patient diagnosis documented by the physician. Activity details: further details about the episode diagnosis registered by the physician. Timestamp: date of the activity performed. Age: patient’s age at the moment of the episode. Gender: patient’s gender, etc. The goal is to use the data to assess how processes can be improved and what channels can be introduced to enhance the patient’s experience. In this age of technology, our options are limitless. Touchpoints must be made painless. Can we say that with improved channeling, accessibility will be top-notch? A visit to the hospital will cease to be a depressing routine.


Hospital personnel must endeavour to be transparent in their engagements with patients. This means being honest and open about treatment plans, procedures, costs and any potential risks associated with a particular procedure or medication. By being upfront and straightforward with their customers, healthcare providers can easily improve patient satisfaction. PwC reports that 32 percent of customers stop doing business with a brand they love after only one negative experience. When customers express frustration, confusion, exasperation or helplessness, they’re raising a red flag and indicating a negative experience.

By prioritising the importance of customer experience, healthcare leaders can impactfully mobilise resources strategically to build positive brand experiences and improve customer satisfaction. Transparency is defined as a “lack of hidden agendas and conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation and collective decision-making”. An out-of-world experience for patients will thrive in a culture of transparency and trust, where both parties have mutual respect.

By listening to customer voices, healthcare organisations can collect and aggregate data to help pinpoint negative experiences customers are voicing and provide insight on how to improve. A critical step in this process is to analyse the current story being told to best identify where change needs to happen. After a bad customer service experience, 39 percent of customers will avoid a company for two years on average, according to Dimensional Research. Let’s say that in our context, we have very little choice as the ratio speaks for itself. But the key is to ensure that patient care is addressed with the interest of the patient at the back of our minds is “outside-in” thinking.


Healthcare providers must demonstrate empathy in their interactions with patients. Empathy is generally the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. It is about how well we can identify with other human beings’ thoughts, feelings and experiences. It involves actively listening to their concerns and providing emotional support and tangible solutions. By doing so, healthcare professionals can create an atmosphere of trust and understanding that will increase patient loyalty and satisfaction.

Research completed at Massachusetts General Hospital and published in the Journal of Internal Medicine in 2012 revealed that empathy in healthcare settings was essential to the formation of strong patient-physician relationships as well as positive patient outcomes and overall satisfaction with the experience. The ability to know and care about what customers want, and then deliver on those wants, is pivotal to managing the experience. Several studies back up the fact that no matter who your customers are (B2B or B2C), there is a high price to pay for delivering poor customer experience.

Invest in the right technology to track advanced metrics, including those associated with customer empathy. When you can analyse the sentiment of interactions, you will be empowered to know what kind of emotional state a customer is in upon contact. It is about making constant improvements to your CX. It is not based exclusively on performance and efficiency, but on what your customers want and need. Be proactive about improving what you do to avoid poor experiences for your customers. Structured surveys and unstructured data (e.g. social media comments) are fantastic ways to see what would improve the experience for your customers.


Another way to gain the confidence and trust of your patients is to deliver safe, effective and efficient care to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction. This will require sparing no effort in striving to provide quality care while meeting patients’ needs. Healthcare providers can achieve this by providing timely access to services, evidence-based practices, and patient-centred approaches in service delivery. The goal is to ensure a seamless and coordinated customer experience across all touchpoints, from first contact to follow-up care. The patient’s journey must be as smooth as possible.

This includes developing strategies to streamline processes and ensuring the quality and accuracy of information. It includes providing communication access conveniently. It is all about making it easier for patients to access the care they need. Accordingly, healthcare providers must ensure that their customers have a more convenient and efficient experience. To do this effectively, you need to collect and manage patient feedback to improve your services. This includes conducting surveys or focus groups and providing an open forum for patients to share their experiences and suggestions.

I am not sure what attention we pay to suggestion boxes and whether they are patronised by patients who may be dealing with ailments and, thus, will not be in the right frame of mind to complain effectively. This, notwithstanding the need to develop standards that will trigger effective and seamless experiences in the patient journey, is highly necessary even in the light of our challenging circumstances about health delivery. Developing effective listening capabilities and providing our patients with the capabilities to voice out their concerns and share positive stories is extremely important.

Being intentional about customer experience is key to developing an experience mindset and delivering out-of-world experiences. In our public and private healthcare domains, there are immense opportunities available to us if we want to jump on the bandwagon of creating memorable patient experiences. This is happening already in some cases; we know that, but we must scale it up.

  The Writer is Head of Training Development & Research

Service Excellence Foundation, and Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205,

[email protected],


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