One of my all-time favorite movies is Mr. Mom, a comedy that challenged traditional gender roles by having a housewife take a job with an ad agency after her husband is laid off. It’s a theme that might not exactly seem groundbreaking in today’s world, where women are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of all households in the US (Pew Research), but in 1983, it was uncharted territory — at least in the movies.
There’s one scene that particularly stands out, where a group of executives are pitching ad campaigns for Schooner Tuna, a company that had hit a major slump. All they could come up with, however, were gimmicks. Fed up with the lack of originality, the company’s president turns to Caroline Butler, the newest member of the team, who says, “Do you want me to be honest with you? Frankly, none of this stuff would influence me.”
When her statement is met with scoffs, the longtime housewife replies by saying, “When is the last time any of you people were in a supermarket?”
After pointing out that this particular brand of tuna is one of the most expensive on the market, Caroline suggests ditching the free-trip promos and temporarily lowering the price of the product (in this classic scene). By doing this, she believes the company can win back customers by showing that they sympathize with those who have been affected by the economic downturn.
Her advertising colleagues hate the idea, but the tuna boss? He loves it, and asked where they had been hiding someone with such fresh ideas.
But of course, she wasn’t hiding; the consumer is always there, but the people who make decisions don’t always see or hear them. Turns out having a woman who brings home the bacon while her husband cares for the children wasn’t the only cutting-edge concept in the movie.
Imagine a company that takes the people they’re trying to influence into the board room to hear their thoughts? And I’m not talking about a user group — I’m talking about the consumer having a seat at the table.
There’s perhaps no better place for this than in healthcare, where patient engagement has become a key priority. In nearly every interview healthsystemCIO.com conducts, we hear about the challenges hospitals face in getting consumers to sign up for portals, use them, and provide the information that can help improve outcomes. What better way to do that than to bring someone in and ask, “What would motivate you to use a portal?” “Describe the experience you’ve had with using our website.” “What services are most important to you as a parent/caregiver?”
It’s an idea often explored by Paul Roemer, one of my favorite bloggers. By highlighting the gaping holes in patient access through real-life anecdotes, he presents leaders with a fresh perspective — one that he hopes will inspire positive changes. In a recent piece, he outlines the lengthy and frustrating process working parents must go through to schedule an appointment for a sick child. In a blog about call centers, he relates the story of a health system CEO who went “undercover” to book an appointment, only to give up after a half-hour.
Upon reading this, the question on every leader’s mind should be: Is this happening at our hospitals and physician offices? And most importantly, is this happening to our patients?
There’s only one way to know for sure. Take a page out of Mr. Mom’s book and invite a consumer into the board room. You might not like everything you hear, but chances are you’ll learn quite a bit.
After all, as the president of Schooner Tuna says, “We’re all in this together.”