Customer Experience: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

June 19, 2010
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I’m writing this post from my 14 year old daughter’s room at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). I’ve been here now for 2 days without leaving the hospital. I say that not to discuss my daughters issues at all but to establish that I have enough experience to  talk about our experience here so far.

I write and talk a lot about the customer conversation and how the most important thing in building advocates is creating customer experience. I will use my current situation to illustrate this. Hospital experiences are by their nature fraught with all sorts of pitfalls both for the patient and the parents, guardians, spouses, and partners. By its nature medicine is intrusive, a bit mysterious, emotional and often highlighted by your lack of control over even the most basic things. I think that’s the biggest issue really, the loss of control. That’s true as a patient and as the parent / spouse, etc.

I’m writing this post because for the first time ever I’m having a very different experience. I’ve been in hospitals as patient and as concerned and involved person many times in my life, starting when I was a child. I think my first experience as a patient for other


I’m writing this post from my 14 year old daughter’s room at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). I’ve been here now for 2 days without leaving the hospital. I say that not to discuss my daughters issues at all but to establish that I have enough experience to  talk about our experience here so far.

I write and talk a lot about the customer conversation and how the most important thing in building advocates is creating customer experience. I will use my current situation to illustrate this. Hospital experiences are by their nature fraught with all sorts of pitfalls both for the patient and the parents, guardians, spouses, and partners. By its nature medicine is intrusive, a bit mysterious, emotional and often highlighted by your lack of control over even the most basic things. I think that’s the biggest issue really, the loss of control. That’s true as a patient and as the parent / spouse, etc.

I’m writing this post because for the first time ever I’m having a very different experience. I’ve been in hospitals as patient and as concerned and involved person many times in my life, starting when I was a child. I think my first experience as a patient for other than emergency room visits was probably when I was in law school and had my appendix out. I’ve been in VA hospitals and hospitals all around the country. In all that time I never had an experience that would have made me feel compelled to write about it (well, there are some really bad experiences that I would probably would have blogged about if blogging had existed). Although I’m really worried about my daughter and very tied up in everything that’s happening I have to say that this hospital is a model for what can be made right in a very tough situation.

So what are they doing? At the most fundamental level the hospital has returned control to patient and parent where ever possible. Instead of providing mystery food on a predefined schedule that the hospital controls they provide the patient a “room service” menu that is available anytime between 6:30am and 8pm with 45 minute delivery on call. And this is not the” rubber chicken, Jello, pudding, apple juice” type of menu, there’s build-your-own omelet’s and pancakes, fruits. granola, hot and cold cereal, made to order hot and cold sandwiches, soups, made to order pizza and stir fry, hot off the frill, home-style fare, appetizers, deserts…you get the idea. There’s a snack room on each floor for patients and parents that has crackers, cookie, tea, juices, sodas, milk, a refrigerator and microwave for patient use and all of this is free and accessible 24 hours a day. The linen closet with towels, sheets, gowns open for patient use. Two activity rooms with games, art supplies, toys etc. per floor and again left open all the time.

For the parents, they get a special bracelet that identifies them so there is no need to constantly justify your reason for being there and also gets you into special parking garages. In the room there’s a sofa that’s plenty big enough to sleep on (and I’m a tall person). For food I have access to the normal hospital cafeteria of course, but there’s also a food court with everything from sushi to pizza and a 24 hours McDonalds. The hospital store has the requisite stuffed animals and cards but also has snacks, drinks, frozen microwave-able food and other essentials.

My point is this, someone here has thought through the whole experience for the patient and the parent and optimized it whenever possible. It’s not perfect but the situation is not perfect. When you are under emotional stress you do not need extra aggravations and when you are in a situation where by its nature you will feel loss of control, every little thing that you can control matters. Understanding your business and understanding your customer and what they need is critical to creating a positive experience. I don’t know if they have patient / parent surveys or advisory councils but I’d believe that they must. Someone here is listening to what the customer has to say AND doing something about it. The staff has a great attitude and they seem to love their jobs, that is not something you mandate. Instead it seems like the employees are having a good work experience and in that experience they pass along their experience to the patients and the parents. All I can say to them is thank you. For those of you reading this I say, listen and give your customers and experience that you are proud of, if you do, you create an advocate and advocates are what builds a great and successful brand.