Studies have shown that 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’s 5 reasons why good customer service should matter when it comes to the healthcare industry.
Educated patients are taking control of their healthcare dollars.
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has put an even bigger spotlight on the healthcare industry. Changes in medical insurance have resulted in patients more closely reviewing their coverage. They are now, more than ever, 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. The opposite is also true, a happy patient will make the effort to ensure that their preferred doctors and facilities participate in whichever plan they select.
In this case, patients are customers.
It’s important to identify how health care customer service is different from other industries. This will aid you and your employees in understanding why it matters. Healthcare “customers” are patients – and aside from elective cosmetic surgery – they typically do not want to be there. Seeing the doctor or going to a hospital can be a scary and confusing experience. From the first point of contact with scheduling staff, to the office staff, waiting room experience and the actual visit with the doctors and nurses, everyone plays a role in making the patient feel comfortable and at ease. 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.
Surveys are carrying more weight.
Outside surveys are becoming more popular and are carrying more weight. ConsumerReports.org, a highly reputable website with a long standing print edition compiled survey results for hospitals for the first time in 2013. The HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) 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 like doctors and nurses. These surveys are conditioning patients to recall the entire experience. With a customer service plan in place, good service becomes second nature and will be recognized by those surveyed.
The internet is becoming a patient’s best friend.
Review sites like HealthGrades.com and Vitals.com provide free access for patients to look up information about their doctors and facilities. Other popular review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List and Google+, which are not health care specific, also provide patients the opportunity to give feedback on their experiences. This means that when a new patient is finding and researching a doctor, they won’t just rely on word of mouth from family and friends. It makes the entire internet a public source of information about a specific doctor or facility. Having accurate information online is another way to increase patient customer service. It indicates that you are interested in keeping your patients informed about the practice and doctors, and as a bonus it provides additional opportunities to be contacted by potential new patients.
Patient-centered care is customer service too.
It’s not just about the obvious. Good customer service extends beyond a pleasant demeanor. It has a lot to do about patient-centered care. The IOM (Institute of Medicine) 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 2013 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 office. Perception is built by gathering information from multiple channels, whether it is through review sites, office visits, or surveys. It is necessary to consider the importance of those channels when looking to build patient loyalty.
At Points Group, we are experts in helping 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.