Monday, May 8, 2017

HCSI Interview with Paul Roemer of Pale Rhino Consulting Episode: 17

This show featured an interview by Lance King of Healthcare Compliance Solutions, Inc ( of Paul Roemer, CEO of Pale Rhino Consulting (

Paul Roemer, Background
Paul is from Philadelphia and has three children.  Besides being the CEO of Pale Rhino Consulting, he enjoys running and painting and is currently writing a couple of suspense/thriller novels.  He doesn't remember what he wanted to be as a child when he grew up, but he has always relished a challenge, which is why he chose consulting as a career.  With over 30 years in the field, most people might not realize that he doesn't usually have the answer to a problem walking in. He says he just “helps clients figure out what to do tomorrow and if you put enough tomorrows together, you'll have a solution.”

Biggest Failure
Once, Paul and his partner went to work on a 3-day job in Rio de Janeiro. It turned into a large, two-and-a-half year project requiring 30 people. At the end of the two-and-a-half years, both Paul and his partner realized they had both overlooked finding the next project, so they had nothing to do for a short time. In the consulting industry, people live by the saying, “if you don't shoot it, you don't eat,” (similar to Christopher Kunney's company, Infinite Options featured in a previous interview found here [insert link]).  Luckily, most of their jobs came from referrals and they weren't out of work for long.

Move into Healthcare Industry
Paul and his partner centered their consulting firm around consumerism (focusing on consumer access, engagement, and experience).  Being both a former cancer patient and a heart attack patient led Paul into consulting for the healthcare industry.
As a patient, he saw the glaring lack of focus on customer/patient experience in the entire healthcare industry. His partner retired about ten years ago and Paul decided to go into consulting exclusively for hospitals and large healthcare providers at that time. He says the biggest problem with consumerism (or lack thereof) in the healthcare industry is that when you only look at patients, you leave out a lot of people who interact with the health system like family members, care givers, referring physicians, and prospective patients.  

Health systems spend millions of dollars in consulting fees, but don't focus on the right place—customer experience.  Paul specializes in finding gaps in access, engagement, and experience for patients that administrators of healthcare systems miss.  He shared a few examples with healthcare administrators and patients that illustrated how out of touch hospitals are with what patients care about. Paul has yet to see a large healthcare provider that has a definition of access, engagement, and experience beyond HCAHP scores. The problem with relying on HCAHP scores to determine patient satisfaction is that it does not poll people other than the patient, it does not measure experiences outside of the hospital stay (website, phone calls, etc), and it weighs all factors as equal (bathroom cleanliness counts the same as pain management).    

To start, a healthcare organization needs to look at where it is and where it wants to be. Paul says that hospitals should strive for a remarkable experience for everyone, every time, at any time, on any device.  The first place to start is the call center.  Most call centers only handle scheduling, yet health systems fail to recognize that only 20 percent of calls received at a call center have to do with scheduling. Eighty percent of callers are transferred or given another number to call because the call center can't answer their questions.  According to Paul, the focus should move away from being efficient to being effective.  Giving people the wrong answer after 2 minutes instead of giving people the wrong answer after 4 minutes does not improve customer experience.  Giving people the right answer does! The second recommendation Paul makes is to make an effective website. People go to a website because they want to; they call because they have to. If common reasons for calling can be identified, and those things have a fairly simple answer, hospitals can put those answers on their websites, thus increasing effectiveness of the website AND decreasing the number of calls to the call center. Human-centered design is key in building a website that users can access “any where, at any time, on any device.” An effective website would be able to track customer acquisition and lifetime value of customers because patients and potential patients would be able to make appointments and upload information, and providers could track conditions, billings, and appointments, plus analyze all of the data collected. If maximizing consumerism in a hospital experience, everything except getting actual treatment should be available online/on a mobile device, such as entering insurance cards, signing forms, filling out admissions forms, and submitting payments. Finally, Paul recommends hospitals and healthcare providers build an aggregator of data from devices and applications that people are already using, such at Fit Bit, and My Fitness Pal. Tracking this patient information could be used to provide better preventative care, but Paul has noticed that very few, if any, healthcare providers are taking advantage of that technology.  (Healthcare Compliance Solutions conducted an interview with a company that is at the forefront of this technology, which can be viewed here [insert link to HELO LX Roethle interview/shownotes].)

Paul says that he is naive enough to think he can change hospital system/patient interactions. He hopes that he can convince health systems to begin measuring access, engagement, and experience of all people who come in contact with them.

Personal Habit That Has Contributed to Success
Paul is tenacious in looking for the right answer. He subscribes to the Occam's razor principle, which states that the simplest way is usually the right way. It's simpler to ask a patient about what they think is important than having marketing and IT come up with answers.

Three Life Truths
  1. Faith is foremost.
  2. Have integrity. Paul says, “I might as well tell the truth because it's easier to remember.”
  3. Treat others as you like to be treated. Manners are free, so it doesn't hurt to use them.
Connect with Paul
Paul will be leaving Pale Rhino and begin working with a healthcare start-up soon, so please email him at his personal email, if you are an administrator seeking his services. You can read his blog at
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About Paul

I am the guy who drags the transformation elephant into the room.

My career of a global consulting executive spans North and South America, the EU, and Asia Pacific. My clients have a combined customer base of more than 250 million customers.

I was the global leader of IBM's healthcare patient and customer consumerism, access, and engagement consulting practice. By transforming consumerism, I enable providers, payers, national retail pharmacies, and life sciences firms to manage care, enable population health, and drive wellness.

I work with healthcare executives to define a vision and create an effective and innovative consumerism strategy. The strategy, built upon human-centered-design, has a single goal--discover and exceed consumers' expectations the first time and every time they interact with their healthcare organization. The strategy is omnichannel--phone (call centers/CRM) and mobile-first (customer portal/apps). The vision is precise--A remarkable experience for every person, every time, at any time, and on any device.

I lead teams unabashedly towards change and teach them to fear the 'as-is'. I truly believe that 'good' is the enemy of 'great' and that great is a poor substitute for 'excellence'. I am a respected, principled leader with an earned reputation for a high level of integrity.

Expertise: consumerism, access, engagement, cognitive health, business development, practice management, innovation, human-centered design, patient/customer experience, mobile-first, customer portals, CRM, social-CRM, call centers, patient retention, business strategy, change management, Social Networking, and PMO.

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