My kids tease me that I’ve become a travel snob. Okay, I’ll admit that I enjoy the perks of upgrades and special privileges that my frequent travel has earned me. Some of it is just personal familiarity like gate agents who remember me, but other things are first class upgrades for being a frequent flyer. Am I a snob because I enjoy the extra pampering and special treatment? Not at all. I am very appreciative because travel can be grueling. And I love it when they say, “We know you have a choice and are grateful that you chose us.” Having frequent flyers is a sign of success because it indicates strong loyalty to the brand. But isn’t it funny that when people use the term, “Frequent Flyer” in a healthcare context you get an entirely different reaction.
The label of frequent flyer in clinics and hospitals, particularly emergency departments, is a negative term and often equated with drug-seeking and malingering. I’ve seen those labels used and abused far too often. Many of our so-called “frequent flyers” are customers who suffer with chronic conditions and often co-morbidities.
Frequent Flyers in healthcare are an indication of our failure to engage, partner and manage health issues. It’s not necessarily a flaw in the patient who is seeking care (as the label suggests). What if we could shift the thinking and work to truly engage these individuals as partners in their care? What if we (as an industry) became masterful at managing these conditions in partnership with these customers? Population health management is helping to make some strides in this direction, but more has to be done in how we think about the relationship at each touch point.
Next time you hear someone use the term frequent flyer, seize the opportunity and ask yourself what steps you can take to forge a stronger partnership in healthcare management.