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Executive Q&A with Jason Shenefield, Chief Operating Officer at Phelps Health

Healthcare executives understand that the age of consumerism in healthcare is here to stay. It looks

different in healthcare than in other service industries, but now healthcare leaders are realizing that their industry is not immune to consumerism anymore. Rebuilding a culture around consumerism, when it has long been focused on a fee-for-service model, is challenging. However, the focus today needs to be on consumerism and how to drive consumers to be loyal to your brand.

Jason Shenefield is chief operating officer at Phelps Health, and has over 20 years of healthcare

experience. In this installment of Executive Q&A, he shares some of his insights on consumerism and what Phelps Health is doing to drive patient loyalty.

  1. When thinking about consumerism, how is it different in healthcare than in other service firms like Amazon or Netflix?

Amazon and Netflix typically provide one type of service. Consumers in healthcare look different, as we’re providing the service of healthcare, but that can mean many different things. Each patient has a specific need or specific desired outcome, so we’re trying to meet that specific need each time. Also, everything we do requires human interaction, which makes healthcare very different from other companies that do very well in service, because a lot of times they’re technology-driven and there’s not that human interaction, and people can expect an outcome on the front end, whereas going into healthcare you don’t always know—a patient may not always know—exactly what the outcome is going to be. We really must work hard at making sure that patients understand what to expect, and then, through that whole process, make sure we’re there for them with compassion and empathy.

  1. How does consumer-obsession play a role in what you do every day at Phelps Health?

We’ve been working on the consumer journey for the past couple of years, and it’s something that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes several years to really establish that culture, to get people to have a clear understanding of our values and why it’s key to keep patients at the center of everything that we do. I think we are early on in our journey. We know that once we have our employees living our values every single day, we can then create scripting to show our patients that we are meeting their needs. We will be able to show this by living our values in an authentic way: if it’s not authentic, it won’t truly meet our patients’ needs and expectations.

  1. How is Phelps Health assessing loyalty?

We assess loyalty in a couple of ways. One way is through our Patient/Family Advisory Counsel, a group of people from the community, of which some have been patients, and some have not. The ones who haven’t typically really gauge from what they hear in the community—and I think one of the most important things for us is to be able to know how people feel about us in the community. You can hear how they are speaking about you on social media, or when you’re at the grocery store. You will hear people talking both positively and negatively, and you must be in tune with that—really understanding what they are saying. We can learn a lot from what those issues may be, and we can try and figure out how do we incorporate that into the things we do.

Another way we assess loyalty is through our employees and how they speak about working within our organization. We want them to feel confident in the technology we have and the physicians that we have on our medical staff, and we want them to feel that, as an organization, we support everything that they do.

  1. How has Phelps Health been strengthening patient loyalty?

One of the ways we’ve been strengthening loyalty is through the aforementioned Patient/Family Advisory Counsel. It’s been going on for a little over a year now. I think we’re still learning how to utilize this group, but I think that we are learning a lot from it. Also, we’ve been building loyalty through the way we handle our complaints and grievances, by responding to them in a timely manner and providing timely feedback. We understand that we can learn, and we start to see trends.

We’ve also offered some patient-listening sessions, where we have patients come in—even if they’re not satisfied with the resolution they had. They will come because they want to talk to someone, and we offer them the chance to talk to departmental directors, senior leadership, and executives, to really get to the essence of what their concern is. A lot of times it’s just that they want to be heard: they want to feel like they’ve really been able to share their experience with someone who can make a difference. This is something that we’ve committed to, so we can show that we’re connecting to our patients and are there for them.

  1. What impact does patient loyalty have on Phelps Health?

Phelps Health is a part of a small community, and we are a single-community provider that is not affiliated with any other large health system—so the impact of patient loyalty is very important to our organization. We strive to always keep our patients in our service area coming to us for our services. We have competitors around our market that are large academic health systems, so loyalty for us is keeping our patients—in our community, in our small town, and with a stand-alone hospital. Without the loyalty of our patients, it would be hard to achieve our mission.

How is your organization reacting to the demands of consumers? How are you focusing on loyalty with your consumers? We want to hear about it! Contact us at mcharko@nrchealth.com to schedule your interview today.