So We Don’t Have To Worry About Our Future (Lesson 1)
Over the years, I have had many conversations with healthcare leaders about the level of patients coming through their hospitals. The overriding belief is that they have access to an endless stream of customers and their workflow could never be disrupted.
They will tell me how secure the healthcare industry is, and then, in the same breath, they will begin talking about how difficult it is for them to maintain their margins and how they are having to constantly innovate to meet their targets.
People will always need healthcare. That is a given. However, when you don’t recognise that there are never any guarantees, even in healthcare, then you can find yourself in trouble.
Everything’s Alright, Honestly!
The first indication you get that things are going wrong is when growth starts to plateau or go backwards. Once this happens you may have to make the difficult decision to cut staff, even if those initial cuts are fairly minor.
After this, revenue leakage really starts to bite, and your targets will be in jeopardy.
If it’s so easy to know what it looks like when things go wrong, where does the belief that everything will always be fine stem from?
There are two main root causes. Some people know that there’s a hole in the boat, but they think if they bail fast enough, it won’t become a big problem. Others either don’t see the hole or refuse to acknowledge that water is coming in.
This reluctance to face up to problems happens in all industries. The thinking is, by allowing anyone, including yourself, to know that problems exist, you become vulnerable.
In the traditional ‘command and control’ environment, there is no failure, there is only fantastic. It’s as if positivity is the glue that holds everything together, which is essentially a ‘fake it till you make it’ attitude.
Of course, it’s never as simple as that, and there will always be action that needs to take place to ensure you do make it.
The truth is that new business is not always guaranteed. Industries get disrupted all the time.
The New York Taxi service is a great example of an industry that believed itself to be invulnerable. Even though people will always need to get from A to B, ridesharing apps such as Uber cut them to shreds with their alternative business model in a few short years.
Customers were ready to jump because they were already dissatisfied with the service they were getting. The opportunity to try something new, which was both easier and cheaper, was naturally extremely attractive.
We are beginning to see signs of what disruption might look like in healthcare, with online doctors doing video consultations and patients now being able to get their prescriptions filled without even seeing anyone.
All of this means that it’s important to the success of your organisation to understand and accept that things will inevitably shift and change. Having said that, disruption isn’t the biggest threat to your organisation.
The biggest threat is bad customer experience.
Bad Experiences And Core Instincts
Bad customer experience is only ever going to be destructive.
It will cause you to lose business and income. It will lead you to miss your targets and, in the worst-case scenario, will force you to downsize or even bring about the complete failure of your organisation.
There is a very straightforward reason underlying the destruction that bad customer experiences can wreak. You just need to take a step back in time to see what that reason is.
If we wind the clock back a few thousand years, a bad experience would be something along the lines of getting chased by a wild animal. In this context, recognising that the experience was a bad one would be a matter of survival.
These core instincts haven’t gone, although the nature of what constitutes a bad experience has changed dramatically.
These days, when we have to wait for hours and hours to get treatment, or when we have to jump through someone else’s hoops to get what we want, those experiences light up the same neurological circuits as getting chased by a wild animal.
All of this has huge relevance in the context of healthcare. This is because, if you’re being made to wait in order to get help and you are in physical pain, it’s going to really, really push into your ancient brain’s pathways. At this deep level, all you know is that something is very wrong, and you’re not getting what you need in order to make it right again.
This experience is then going to be filed under ‘things to avoid.’ If the perception is that waiting times at a particular hospital are the root cause of your problem, then the decision will be to avoid that hospital.
We are hard-wired to recognise that avoiding bad experiences is central to our wellbeing, and so we retain this information. And once we’ve made up our minds, we rarely change our thinking. People generally look for evidence that supports their beliefs and become increasingly fixed in their views.