The healthcare industry has eluded disruption for some time, but an increasing number of potential disruptors have been entering the arena over the last 12 months. From IBM’s Watson, that recently diagnosed a rare form of leukaemia in 10 minutes, to the local online booking platform, which also offers a range of other services such as online prescription requests.

These are singular examples however, that either haven’t broken into the mainstream or only address one part of a patient’s experience.

The reticence to focus on the customer experience (rather than the experience only as a patient) is interesting given this is where healthcare organisations actually have an opportunity to differentiate.

Realising the importance of customer experience, Florida Hospital recently collaborated with Disney to design their new children’s ward. Together they implemented practical improvements such as new uniforms, simplified name tags and mobile phone free zones. Staff were also trained to greet patients with a smile and kneel down to a child’s eye level when speaking to them. Following its successful launch, the Hospital’s Chief Operations Officer realised that: “taking care of people means more than just putting the splint or cast on the broken bone”. In other words, the treatment itself is transactional and patients now expect a high level of treatment as the bare minimum: the quality of their experience makes the difference.

In most industries, incumbents struggle to innovate and are either too slow to change or too constrained by prior knowledge and thinking. In the healthcare industry, a reliance on ‘guidelines’ from governing bodies also feeds this lack of innovation and keen-ness to deviate from the norm. Of course, these guidelines have a place, but they will not sustain and grow a medical practice: patients, as customers, are the ones who drive revenue and growth. When they’re unhappy, the door is open for disruptors who will bend the rules and make the ‘guidelines’ look irrelevant before bringing everything together in a seamless end-to-end experience.

For private healthcare, there are two ways forward. The first pathway is to work within these guidelines, fixing the basics to incrementally to work towards providing a great experience. Turning your customers into advocates at this stage is an extra challenge. Alternatively, take a leap into a future based on true desirability and then work back to what an ideal experience would really mean for customers and what might be feasible. There is a great piece of thought leadership by Claro Partners outlining how organisations can use lean startup thinking to drive innovation.

The rise of possible disruptors in healthcare suggests that disruption is imminent and that innovation is vital for survival.