Patient or Customer? You decide.

Posted on: January 5th, 2018 by Maria Markusen


Patient is one of my least favorite words. I was an impatient kid. I practice, I mean really practice daily patience as an adult. Movement, agility and fast, positive outcomes are more fun. The idea of waiting for something, delaying anything and generally being quiet about it is just generally unappealing. Being a patient in a hospital or a physician’s office is even worse. You generally don’t feel your best. It’s basically waiting to hear bad news. And mostly we just wait. In fact, the origin of the word patient traces back to a Greek team meaning suffering.

And so for the past twenty years, my teams and I worked to change the word patient to resident or customer or healthcare consumer. We created the term #caretailing. And we’ve tried to create the best wellness experiences for our customer. Whether it was in an assisted living building, a hospital lobby, a DME store and now in our health and wellness stores, our goal is shopping that doesn’t equate to suffering and waiting but to health, recovery, and wellness. Our goal is an experience. A repeat customer.

One of the smartest and most elegant persons I’ve ever met is a gentleman named Gerard Van Grinsven. Mr. Van Grinsven is a Ritz Carlton executive turned hospital CEO who changed the patient experience in his hospitals while still bringing down costs. I talked with Van Grinsven several times about his strategy. His whole goal was to create a wellness experience instead of sickness experience for the “customers” in his hospital. Organic menus, a farmer’s market, therapy dogs, fitness classes and specific space design closer to a spa were all a part of the wellness strategy. One of his hospitals has a marketplace with retail and restaurants including a DME store. And he didn’t use the term patient either. He tried to change the dialogue, calling patients customers. His goal in his hospitals matched the goal in his hotels to “deliver on the unexpressed needs of the customer.” In other words to go beyond what’s asked for to what delights. Giving customers what they don’t even know they want. Surprising them.

Nowadays, we can all hit one button and order from Amazon. In the modern retail environment, space design and product mix are important. But connecting with your customers, anticipating needs, uncovering and suggesting products they didn’t know could help will surprise and delight. And the best news it doesn’t require a capital investment. Just a people investment. What’s one way your team can delight your customers today?

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