healthcare is more than the clinical experience

As I’ve been working at Genentech, one thing that has quickly become apparent to me is that healthcare is far more than the clinical experience.  That clinical experience, between me and my doctor or maybe me and a x-ray tech or something like that, is only one of the pieces of healthcare.  There are many aspects that are just as important as the clinical experience.

In “How hospitals hope to boost ratings on Yelp, HealthGrades, ZocDoc and Vitals”, the Washington Post says this:

When patients are asked to rate how doctor quality should be measured, clinical outcomes, such as getting cured of a disease, rarely come up, said Lisa Suennen, who advises health-care companies. Patients talk about whether a doctor or nurse was kind to them, or whether their experience was fast and convenient. It’s assumed that the doctor is going to treat their illness or condition.

The clinical experience is necessary, but not sufficient, to have a good healthcare experience.  The user experience of healthcare includes the clinical experience, as well as the ease of getting an appointment, the wait time before your appointment, how test results and next steps are communicated with you, whether your doctor follows up with you.

Perhaps this is a reflection of Genentech and its treatments, but I wonder if the last sentence is actually true.  Or maybe it’s true for lots of cases, and it stops being true when the diagnosis or treatment is difficult.  As a patient, it can be hard to assess clinical outcomes.  If I had a cold and now I don’t, how do I know if the clinical experience could have been better?  If I have a chronic condition, how do I assess whether I could have gotten a better clinical experience?  It’s easy to assess whether I feel like my doctor has listened to me, whether my doctor has treated me like a person and not a condition, whether my doctor is responsive to my concerns.

Healthcare is hard.  We have to remember that the clinical aspect is only one part of what makes healthcare hard.  We have to get the patient experience right.