Gamification in healthcare only works if you can measure it – here’s how

By Christine Smith Stetler, R.N.

In business and in sports, it’s all about teams. What teams can accomplish when they work together. How they can fail spectacularly when they don’t.

Teams in healthcare are no different. Large or small, new or old, a single team can have an outsized impact at your hospital—good and bad. Let’s look at the patient registration team. They are often the first contact many patients have with your organization. That interaction can make or break the patient’s entire experience. A quick registration may mean a positive online review; a slow and inefficient interaction may lead to patient frustrations that boil over to social media and your organization’s leadership.

Ensuring patients get to where they need to go quickly and connect with who they need to see remains a challenge throughout healthcare. Patients regularly sit for 13-34 minutes in a hospital waiting room, according to Patient Engagement HIT. The result of long wait times is a negative financial impact and poor patient satisfaction. When long wait times occur:

  • 30% of average patients will simply leave
  • 20% of patients change providers
  • 53% with limited access to healthcare services are more likely to get up and leave than the average patient mentioned above.

That’s what makes your registration team such an important part of the entire patient experience. When the registration process falters, it creates a trickle-down effect that even the best organizations have trouble turning around.

What’s worse, many healthcare organizations fail to measure patient-centric factors like wait times or the friendliness of front-line staff and healthcare providers. But organizations that do take the time to reflect have an opportunity to make changes that ultimately benefit the hospital and the patient. For example, a holistic, near real-time view of the patient registration process provides an opportunity for registrars and the organization to improve the experience on-the-fly.

Gamification builds better customer service

In many cases, improving the patient journey can be as simple as gamifying the process used to measure how the staff interacts with and processes patients through a specific environment, such as patients using an emergency department or a physician’s waiting room.

I know what you’re thinking. The entire healthcare experience is very complex, often confusing and always tiring. Patients face many unknowns and have many questions. Is gamification really feasible in an effort to build better customer service? Yes, and let me tell you how.

Going to the doctor is an experience few people crave: “(H)ealthcare is an undesired service that involves vulnerable patients, while most interactions between patients and service providers are emotionally charged. The healthcare service ecosystem is known to be extremely complex and fragmented, regardless of whether the patient’s health problem is acute or chronic. This situation likely increases patients’ frustration and complicates their care journey,” according to an article published by the Journal of Service Management.

Improving the patient journey should be a goal for all healthcare organizations. That said, achieving that goal is often cited as highly complicated and time-consuming. That is where gamification comes into play. When you gamify the activity, it becomes much easier to reach the goal of patient relations improvement.  

As staff move toward the organization’s patient-improvement goals, they can be rewarded through virtual and real-world awards. Gamification of the activities can help make the process fun, allow staff to compete for awards, points, bragging rights, and most importantly, get them more involved in providing exceptional patient experiences. Such practices can lead to improved employee satisfaction as an added benefit.

Each employee activity, as it relates to improving the patient experience, is worth a specific number of points; those points measure the employee’s ability to positively impact the experience. “Without appropriate metrics, an organization cannot measure progress or improve on past experiences. (D)esigners need to determine metrics and targets that would indicate success for a gamification strategy, and they should build these into the mechanics of the gamified experience. (The activity) should be structured such that as the players interact with the gamified experience, they are automatically being measured; in this manner, the organization is gathering valuable information that can be used to judge the success of the gamification strategy,” explains “Game on: Engaging customers and employees through gamification,” published in Business Horizons.

Gamification also helps healthcare organizations identify employees who may need some help improving the ways they work directly with patients. Once the employee is identified, supervisors can use concrete examples to help improve patient interactions or offer training classes to help improve and exceed expectations.

Use a productivity analytics dashboard to benefit RCM

A productivity analytics dashboard is a data-driven way to help front-line staff understand how their work impacts the revenue cycle. Today, many healthcare organizations simply measure quantity. A productivity analytics approach enables the measurement of quantity and quality. With a productivity process, healthcare organizations can better understand what’s being done well and where there are areas for improvement.

The better the registrar’s work, the better impact it has on the revenue cycle. A dashboard designed with maintaining or improving quality performance benefits employees, patients and the organization at-large. (There’s also a good chance focusing on performance will positively affect the organization’s reputation on the internet as many patients continue to post their healthcare experiences online.)

While measures will vary for every healthcare organization, the one aspect that must be part of every dashboard is real-time measurement throughout the workday. Structured as performance goals, the measures help staff understand how they are performing in real-time based on their progress toward completing the tasks assigned to their roles.

Once committed to a real-time dashboard, the organization must look at the measures that are important in meeting its strategic goals. These are just a sample of what an organization may want to include:

  1. Long-term: This measurement reviews a staff member’s score, for example, completing and verifying addresses as patients come in for care. Staff receives a score for completion. If, however, several weeks or months later bills for these addresses are returned for bad addresses, this indicates a negative impact on the revenue cycle, causing the employee’s score to drop.
  2. Quality: Quality care begins before the patient ever sees a healthcare provider. It starts as soon as a patient walks through the front door and is greeted. A real-time dashboard can help staff understand how their work impacts quality. The dashboard will show how current work compares to earlier work, peers and the entire team. They are rewarded for excellent quality scores and coached when improvement is needed.
  3. Productivity: The dashboard lets the staff and supervisors view task or project completion percentages against stated goals throughout the day and help both understand what needs attention to meet the day’s objectives.

The real-time dashboard can help a healthcare organization control the revenue cycle by understanding many aspects of the patient/health system interaction. Bubbling up data like denials, bills returned because of a bad address, prior authorizations and rejected claims all create an opportunity for internal enhancements that can lead to a better understanding of and improvements in the revenue cycle.

Most of us in healthcare don’t naturally think of games when looking at productivity in a healthcare setting and how it can impact the revenue cycle. When we use productivity analytics at the patient registration level, we now have an opportunity to make healthcare a better place for staff and patients while improving revenue. It’s what I like to call a win-win.

Start by transforming staff productivity into a gamification model– one that challenges staff by measuring and rewarding better customer service. You’ll be amazed at how it can help forge better patient relationships over the long term. Mark my words: Productivity analytics will be a game-changer for your organization.


About the Author

Christine Smith Stetler is director of Product Consulting at MedeAnalytics. She is a registered nurse and most recently led the client success architect team at Allscripts. She is passionate about bringing innovation in healthcare data and technology directly to consumers and their caregivers to help them live their best lives. With over two decades in a field she loves, Christine has helped patients and fellow clinicians both directly, hands-on and through tech. She has been fortunate to have a wealth of knowledge and ingenuity bestowed upon her by fellow clinicians, healthcare administrators, technology experts and patients alike. Christine has learned how to see healthcare through the eyes of these varied stakeholders giving her the unique ability to recognize gaps and, with grit, compassion and sharp sense of humor, close them.