The Human Connection of Patient/Member Experience in the Age of COVID-19

Like many of our health plan and delivery-of-care partners, here at SPH Analytics we’ve been adapting to a crisis that calls on us to approach each day with an open mind and a willingness to quickly pivot our priorities. Above all, our focus has been the safety and well-being of our teammates and the continuity of our business services with the least interruption possible.

“Business services.” Let’s expand on what that means. As I suspect is the case with most of you, at any given time, there are so many things that rush to fill your thoughts, each clamoring for due attention. There’s trying to follow the latest news headlines, trying to keep connected to teammates not used to working from home as well as family and friends who are physically isolated, monitoring the latest updates from NCQA, CMS and other authorities, continuing to keep making progress on ongoing projects and initiatives, trying to make sense of the profound changes we are seeing every day and adjust to a new normal … it goes on and on. But as I reflect, I often come back to an immense appreciation of the importance of human connection and experience. 

I’ve been fortunate to work on member and patient experience for nearly a decade, and never has it felt more important than it does now. It’s easy to think of experience as a quality measure – scores and thresholds and ratings. But at its heart, it is a measure of the human experience. In times of crisis, we are all in a unique position to make sure that amid the tough decisions and the very real human toll, we continue our work to measure, track, and understand the human experience.

There are changes happening at this very minute that will profoundly impact health care from now on. Seemingly overnight, telehealth services are connecting people with their providers and may forever change how we think about access to care. At the heart of health care are human beings caring for human beings. From stressed and overloaded doctors tending patients on the hospital front lines to call center agents explaining telehealth benefits to members. All of these touchpoints in the system are opportunities for us to mindfully think about how to best support people in times of crisis.

Looking at the experience quality measures we are familiar with may help us understand the magnitude of the remarkable changes we are all seeing each day. But we need to think beyond how we typically perceive experience measurement and understand that it’s about keeping a focus on the human experience during the pandemic.

So, when I think of our “business services,” it includes our partnership with you to help design the right approaches to measure and help understand these experiences during this time of system crisis. 

This is what we are thinking about daily here at SPH Analytics. 

As we look at our own data and learn from other organizations, early indications are that people are eager to engage in research right now, though we need to be careful about the topic and tone. It is an opportunity to learn and to inform all our organizations with data to drive our future decisions.

You are invited to join us for a conversation on April 8 about Market Research in Times of Crisis: Recommendations for the COVID-19 Pandemic. We’ll share what we’ve seen in the industry as well as what we are seeing in our data, along with suggestions for how we can partner with you in new ways to help and support members and patients, and to give organizations meaningful data that guides us through difficult times.

Stay safe out there and remember there are always people out there doing good and fostering human connection even in times of physical distancing. If you are unable to join the conversation live with us on Wednesday, April 8, a recording will be available here no later than April 10 that you can play back on your own schedule.


About the Author

Esther Turner, Principal, Product Management for SPH Analytics, has been with SPH Analytics for more than eight years. She is an expert in member experience, and her responsibilities focus on our health plan products and survey solutions. Esther monitors requirements and updates from both NCQA and CMS. Her graduate work at Emory University included public policy and both qualitative and quantitative analysis.

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