20220112 Empathy - Empathy is a major focus of Sentry’s customer experience efforts

Empathy is a major focus of Sentry’s customer experience efforts

How do you define the word empathy?

Ask a group of people, and the answers tend to follow a standard script: “It’s putting yourself in another person’s shoes,” one might say. “Feeling someone else’s pain,” someone else will add. “It’s helping others, especially the less fortunate,” and so on.

None of those answers are incorrect, but they don’t tell the whole story about the word’s meaning, especially when it comes to the mission of the 340B program and the work we do here at Sentry. Empathy has become a major focus of our customer experience efforts, and it comes at a pivotal moment for 340B.

Misunderstanding 340B

With the many recent lawsuits from drug manufacturers and several scathing, often deeply misinformed analyses of the program from organizations that oppose it, the 340B program is under assault as perhaps never before. The increased scrutiny has focused on the financial aspects of the program and pushed a narrative that hospitals are motivated first and foremost by the financial benefits from the program.

Yet when we speak with our customers, they rarely ever even mention the money they are saving. Instead, they talk about the services they’re able to provide to patients, and the recipients on the other end of those services, thanks to 340B.

At its heart, 340B is a safety net program meant to “stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services,” as a congressional report explains. Hospitals use the savings generated by their 340B programs for things like offsetting uncompensated care and to support outreach programs, free health screenings and vaccinations, COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, patient copay assistance programs and much, much more.

While critics say that hospitals simply line their pockets with 340B savings, there are real patients on the other end who directly benefit from this vital program. For example, the man who had three cardiac episodes and needed a coronary artery stent, plus treatment for hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, but lacked insurance coverage. He received emergency care and was enrolled in a program funded by his hospital’s 340B program that provides patients with transportation, medications, a nurse case manager and social worker. Because of this program, he was able to regain control of his high blood pressure and better manage his diabetes.

Or the 10-year-old girl from a remote area in California who was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis, whose family couldn’t find a provider who would accept their insurance, which didn’t cover the cost of the treatment she needed. Using reallocated 340B funds, the nearest children’s hospital absorbed the cost of bi-monthly infusions. She’s now excelling in school and playing soccer.

The business case for empathy

While Sentry may be a step removed from patients like these, we interact every day with providers who are providing much-needed care on a daily basis. And we know they have tough jobs.

Some things we have learned from research and firsthand experience:

  • Customers prefer companies that show empathy. According to a 2021 Businesssolver survey, 42% of consumers said they won’t buy from companies that they believe lack empathy.
  • Companies that appear busy and distracted miss out on how their customers are feeling, and what they need. Customers notice when their contacts at a company are distracted by notifications pinging on their phone, or by trying to multitask during a meeting. It tells them you don’t value them, their time or the problem they want you to help resolve.
  • Empathy pays dividends in the form of employee retention. Businesssolver found that 56% of workers said they would stay with a company whose management shows empathy.
  • Being angry or annoyed changes your psychological state and can block empathy.

By strengthening our internal communications among teams and individual employees and developing soft skills for human interaction, we become more empathetic. And by being empathetic, we earn our customers’ trust and strengthen our partnership. This trusting relationship provides the opportunity for a deeper understanding of our products and increases the word-of-mouth promotion and value associated with our brand.

In healthcare especially, the past two years have shown us the importance of being a trusted resource and being willing to truly listen. It’s a mission we take seriously.

As always, we welcome feedback from our customers. How are we doing on empathy? Send your comments or questions to CustomerExperience@sentryds.com.