Guest Blogger: Chris Bonney

When decisions regarding facility design, patient flow, registration systems and other design, process or policy issues are made, who is sitting at the table as the voice of the customer? Who evaluates the impact of those decisions on the customer experience? Once again, I am pleased to offer the insights and perspectives of long-time colleague Chris Bonney on this topic.

Tracking the Eyes That Count

I was at a meeting of some architects recently. In demonstrating their capabilities, they showed how they’d solved a tough design problem on a hospital expansion project by clustering treatment rooms in a way that increased operational efficiency and reduced construction cost. Sounds like a win-win proposition, doesn’t it?

Only nowhere in the process was there input from the patients who’ll be using the facility. And therein was laid the foundation for what is likely to be a history of low patient satisfaction with this facility.

No one checked to see if patients would object to all those treatment room with their curtain doors facing the same public area. No one checked to see if patients would understand the confusing and blandly colored wayfinding signage necessary to navigate the facility’s labyrinth of interior corridors, none of which have visual cues to set them apart from each other. They didn’t consider that older patients might need covered places to sit down every fifty yards or so as they walk in from the parking lot in the rain, or whether they’ll even find their way through the three poorly marked left turns necessary to get into the facility’s parking lot.

Navigating the health system is challenging enough for most people even when they have all their faculties. But add advancing age, declining eyesight and hearing and the stress of whatever condition brings them into your healthcare facility and you multiply the opportunities for confusion, anxiety, anger and failure.

Remember “Brubaker,” the movie where Robert Redford arrived undercover as a new prisoner to get a glimpse of life in the penitentiary he’d been hired to clean up? Put yourself in the patient’s shoes. Take a walk around your facility wearing a blindfold, wearing someone else’s eyeglasses, wearing earplugs or with a cast on your leg. Start out on the street where the bus lets people off, or at the farthest point in the parking lot. Do it in the daytime and at night. Do it in a wheelchair. Spend some time in each of your waiting rooms just listening. Pick a random ER patient and observe that patient through his or her entire stay at the hospital. Sit in a patient room and listen to the staff conversations outside.

After you’ve done all this, you might be surprised how different your impressions are from what they are now, and how many new ideas you’ll pick up. You could learn a lot from your customers.

Chris Bonney is president of Bonney & Company, a Virginia-based marketing research firm. He can be reached at 757-481-7030 or by e-mail at:

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