People hold on to negative experiences and are not likely to change their mind after that negative experience. The best way to avoid negative bias is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are five reasons why great customer service is imperative in the healthcare industry.
1. Educated patients control and monitor their healthcare spending.
Changes in medical insurance and the seemingly constant spotlight on healthcare in the United States resulted in patients more closely reviewing their coverage. They are aware of their choices and costs when it comes to their doctor and hospital visits.
When healthcare is treated like any other paid service, an unhappy patient will move along to a new facility or doctor based on a poor experience – whether it is with the doctor or the support staff or overall experience.
Fortunately, the opposite is also true. A happy patient will do whatever is required to ensure their preferred doctors and facilities participate in whichever plan they select.
2. Patients are customers/consumers.
Healthcare customer service differs from other industries. Healthcare “customers” are patients. Aside from elective procedures, they typically do not want to be in any healthcare situation. Even when not in the middle of a pandemic, going to the doctor or a hospital can be a scary and confusing experience.
By identifying potential sources of discomfort, and having a well thought-out customer service plan, a practice or hospital can set themselves up for the best possible patient experience. Think about how many experiences are opportunities to either impress a patient or chase them away:
- First point of contact with scheduling staff
- Office staff
- Waiting room experience
- Wait time past the scheduled appointment time
- Check in procedure with nurse or medical assistant/vitals
- Actual visit with the doctors and nurses
Every person and procedure in your practice plays a role in making the patient feel comfortable and at ease.
Because we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, clearly defining your appointment process is more important than ever to eliminate any hurdles your patients must overcome, or exposing other patients and staff to infection.
Tell patients your safety protocols ahead of time and clearly define what they must do. What may be obvious to you because of your job is not obvious to patients. Provide all FAQs and patient check-in instructions in clear, simple, step-by-step language. For example, instructing patients to call in advance when they arrive and wait in their cars for further instructions.
3. Surveys are important.
ConsumerReports.org compiled survey results for hospitals for the first time in 2013 and continues to do so. The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) is a standardized survey created by the federal government to survey Medicare patients. Over a billion dollars in annual Medicare funding is now tied to HCAHPS results.
These surveys don’t just cover cleanliness and doctor competencies. They also cover the communication skills of office staff and medical staff. Surveys are conditioning patients to recall the entire experience. With a solid customer service plan in place, good service becomes second nature and will be recognized by those surveyed.
4. The Internet is a patient’s best friend and a practice’s worst nightmare.
Review sites like HealthGrades.com and Vitals.com still provide free access for patients to look up information about doctors and facilities. However, Google business listings and reviews are the first thing that comes up in an Internet search. What is your Google rating? How many stars do you have? How many Google reviews? This feature elicits an immediate perception from customers.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, even Instagram (TBD on TikTock) have become digital rooftops where your patients will shout both your praises and your deficiencies. A really bad experience can go viral in minutes scaring away a large pool of potential customers. Or, a really great experience can garner you referrals.
Ignoring customer feedback tells the next reader that you don’t care. Having accurate information online increases positive patient customer service. It indicates that you are interested in keeping your patients informed about the practice and doctors. As a bonus, it provides additional opportunities to be contacted by potential new patients.
5. Patient-centered care is customer service, too.
Quality customer service extends beyond you or your staff having a pleasant demeanor. It has a lot to do about patient-centered care. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) defines patient-centered care as:
“Providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”
Patient-centered care results in higher instances of patient engagement, and a study by the College of Technology at Eastern Michigan University found that better patient engagement is associated with better patient-perceived health outcomes.
The patient experience does not start or end at the doctor’s physical office. Perception is built by gathering information from multiple channels, whether it is through review sites, office visits or surveys. The importance of those channels when looking to build patient loyalty should never be underestimated.
At Points Group, we help medical practices grow by improving services and patient satisfaction. We can help you identify areas of improvement with our Patient Satisfaction Survey, develop custom training materials and implement new processes. Our goal is to equip your staff with the tools needed to succeed and increase positive patient engagement. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.