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The Importance of Voice of the Customer in Healthcare Management

a healthcare manager meeting with a team member

In modern healthcare, executives and managers who aspire to improve their operations pay sharp attention to what is known as Voice of the Customer (VoC). Focusing on the needs of customers is also a central tenet of Lean Six Sigma making the methodology extremely useful for today’s healthcare leaders. 

Patient-centric care is a cornerstone of effective healthcare management. Listening to the patients’ needs, concerns and feedback isn't just a nicety - it's a necessity. While healthcare leadership involves many different responsibilities, at its core is the need to deliver high-quality care that best meets the needs and expectations of patients.  

This is where VoC becomes invaluable. Healthcare leaders who become proficient at using Lean Six Sigma can become experts in collecting, analyzing and acting on VoC, allowing them to play a key role in a healthcare operation’s success while enhancing patient care. 

What Is the Voice of the Customer?

Patients are the heartbeat of the healthcare system, each with their unique set of needs, preferences and experiences. Ignoring or neglecting these voices not only undermines the patient-provider relationship but also hampers efforts to improve healthcare outcomes. This is where the concept of VoC helps to bridge the gap between patient care and healthcare management. 

VoC has its roots in Lean. Lean methodology focuses on eliminating waste and keeping the focus continually on customer satisfaction. The idea is to improve customer experience (CX) by focusing on customer needs, wants, expectations and preferences.  

More importantly, it involves collecting and analyzing customer feedback to improve CX, which in turn improves organizational performance. 

Key Elements of VoC

Most VoC initiatives include four key elements, according to Microsoft.   

Gather customer feedback: Methods of feedback include customer interviews, online surveys, live chats, website reviews, net promoter scores and focus groups. Interaction with artificial intelligence, which Microsoft reports will include about 95% of all customer interactions by 2025, also offers opportunities to collect customer data. 

Share feedback: Feedback should be shared across the company, not just among those in leadership positions. 

Identify actionable insights: Since VoC processes are data-driven, not based on assumptions, it’s easier to find measurable, actionable insights that can be implemented. 

Respond to customers: Once insights are identified, it’s critical to act quickly and efficiently to address feedback and make meaningful changes. 

The Uses of VoC in Healthcare

One of the key benefits of incorporating VoC into healthcare management is its ability to provide insights into the patient experience. By actively soliciting feedback from patients (through surveys, interviews and other channels), healthcare providers can gain a deeper understanding of the factors influencing patient satisfaction and areas for improvement.  

For example, through patient surveys, hospitals can identify areas where communication between staff and patients may be lacking or where wait times are unreasonably long.  

VoC can also drive quality improvement initiatives within healthcare organizations. By systematically collecting and analyzing feedback from patients, providers can identify patterns and trends that may indicate areas of clinical or operational inefficiency. 

For instance, if a particular treatment protocol consistently receives negative feedback from patients due to side effects or lack of efficacy, healthcare managers can collaborate with clinical staff to review and revise the protocol accordingly.  

Similarly, if patients consistently report difficulties navigating the discharge process, steps can be taken to streamline and improve the discharge process for future patients. 

VoC plays a pivotal role in shaping broader healthcare policies and initiatives. For example, patient feedback may highlight disparities in access to healthcare services or reveal gaps in the provision of preventive care. Armed with this information, policymakers can develop targeted interventions to address these disparities and improve health outcomes for all members of the community. 

Learn VoC through Emory’s Lean Six Sigma Programs

In the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt for Healthcare program, students learn to apply the tools and techniques of the methodology specifically to the healthcare industry. VoC is covered in the second week of the program. Students will be taught how to define the customer, how to define the customer’s expectations and how to translate the customer’s expectations into customer requirements.   

Other Lean Six Sigma programs offered online through Emory Continuing Education cover concepts of the VoC, including: 

Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt: The Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt program is the perfect starting point for those who want to learn the fundamentals of the methodology. Students learn basic terminology, strategies and tools that support Lean Six Sigma project teams. An introduction to VoC is discussed in the first module of class.   

Lean Six Sigma Green Belt: The Lean Six Sigma Green Belt program empowers students to apply theories, tools and techniques to tackle real-world business challenges. The Green Belt program also dives deeper into managing Lean Six Sigma projects using the DMAIC methodology, which stands for define, measure, analyze, improve and control. VoC is taught in the ‘define’ portion of the material.  

Lean Six Sigma Black Belt: The Lean Six Sigma Black Belt program unlocks the advanced lessons of the methodology and teaches leaders how to successfully integrate Lean Six Sigma into an organization's culture and address enterprise-wide process improvement needs. In the Black Belt program, students will learn VoC is a critical component of Lean Six Sigma because it helps to establish the right measures to serve as the foundation for each of the DMAIC processes of process improvement.   

Learn more about the Emory Lean Six Green Belt for Healthcare program >