Patient Listening / Basic Principles

Authors: Walt Shepard & Chris Hale

What is patient listening?
Patient listening is the act of engaging customers for their feedback about their experiences on a continuous basis. Patient listening strategies encompass both active and passive feedback collection:

  • Active – triggered solicitation based on a specific set of events or criteria (e.g., a visit, a service call, etc.)
  • Passive – giving customers an easy outlet for providing feedback if/when that becomes important to them

Why does having a patient listening strategy matter?
It is more important than ever for healthcare organizations to have patient listening strategies, as patients have grown accustomed to companies taking a more proactive approach to customer listening in other aspects of consumer lives. As a result, organizations across the healthcare spectrum (e.g., payers, providers, med device, pharma) are increasingly adopting and/or rapidly improving their patient listening programs (becoming a best practice).

What should my organization be thinking about in developing a patient listening strategy?
The right approach to patient listening will vary from sector to sector (i.e., payers to providers to etc.) and organization to organization. However, there are four principles that any organization should apply in developing a patient listening strategy:

Don’t make perfect the enemy of good

  • Many orgs become paralyzed when trying to address this large and complicated topic – something is better than nothing
  • If you don’t have a patient listening strategy, start by defining a “crawl” approach that can scale to “walk” and “run” over time

Measure what is actionable

  • Make sure collected feedback can be trended, related to specific follow-on actions, and aligned to objectives
  • Listening programs won’t be fully diagnostic – but they should produce insights that indicate when & where intervention is required

Listening is only valuable if you plan to act

  • Equally important is the ability to make process/experience improvements with the data
  • Effective programs have clear RACI guidelines that cause specific teams to act
  • A cross-functional group should meet at a defined cadence to review insights and act

Set goals & hold the org accountable

  • Patient experience & outcomes should be the #1 concern of any healthcare org
  • As a result, patient listening metrics should hold a prominent place within the org
  • That means establishing performance baselines, setting goals, and incentivizing results
Healthcare organizations that currently lack a patient monitoring strategy should start by developing a basic, actionable, and scalable methodology for collecting feedback on their patients’ experiences. Organizations that do collect patient feedback today should evaluate their current approach relative these four key listening strategy principles and identify potential areas of weakness/opportunities to improve.


Walter Shepard

Walter Shepard

Principal, Yarmouth

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