When you hear the term customer service, you may quickly begin to think about your favorite retail outlet, internet or communications provider, or the travel industry. Providing the utmost in customer service is essential to their business. Would you have even thought of health care being first on your list?

What is Patient Satisfaction?

Patient satisfaction centers around how a patient views the service and quality of care given by those who provide health care services to them. A major component of the patient experience is the level of customer service provided to the patient, aka customer, not just by the clinician, but all who interact with the patient and their family.

Members of your clinical team may be the most accomplished in the field, but to be consistent in providing a high-quality health care experience, you must make certain that all customer-facing staff members view themselves as customer service representatives.

Changes in Patients

As the health care industry evolves, and continues at a rapid pace, we need to be cognizant of changes in this industry and how they affect our business today and what we might face in the future.

Patients are more educated about the choices in service and the costs of their doctor and hospital visits. They are making more informed decisions, due to the highly publicized changes being made by the “payors.” It’s been in the news, media outlets, and even communicated by our Enterprise Chief Medical Officer, Randy Pilgrim, MD, FACEP.

Patients also have access to the internet to visit many social media sites to view doctor and facility ratings provided by other health care customers, reporting both good and bad service.

Patients have many choices on how to spend their dollars on health care, for themselves and members of their families. The level of customer service you provide to them directly and indirectly affects their perception of your brand and helps them choose your facility for their care.

What Can You Do?

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “How do I ensure that I provide the best level of customer service to our patients?” 

Here are some key components that both the clinical team and staff members can demonstrate to ensure they are providing the best patient experience: 

  1. Begin seeing patients as customers. They have choices and can turn to other options in seeking the quality of care they desire.
  2. Clinicians and staff members should exhibit care and empathy toward patients and their families. Be courteous and respectful. Your kindness may be all they need to set their mind at ease for any insecurities they may be experiencing.
  3. Be efficient in your processes to ensure patient information is collected and updated timely, both confidentially and accurately.
  4. Professionalism should always be displayed to the patient and their families. Never show indifference to patients/customers. Show respect to everyone, whether their level of knowledge or background is different than yours. Customers should not be made to feel inferior or misinformed.
  5. Don’t assume everyone speaks your language. Communicate to educate in terms that are easy for the patient or customer to understand. Be brief and to the point, but friendly.
  6. Always tell patients you appreciate their business. You provide a service to patients. A thank you goes a long way.
  7. A feeling of trust and high-level of privacy must be felt by the patient. If you say, “you’ll be better in a week or two,” mean it. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver.
  8. Keep in touch. You may feel you do not have much time for keeping in touch with your patients/customers, but it will pay off in the long run. Making time creates a relationship opportunity, which in turn will create a feeling of loyalty.

The delivery of a positive customer experience is essential in the health care environment. It is not enough to just provide health care services. The level to which care is delivered is being evaluated now, more than ever.

Patient experience sets the expectation of care. Poor customer service may shed light on deeper organizational issues, which may include process inefficiencies, a lack of staff training, and/or competency concerns.

Your attention to providing stellar customer service in this ever-changing health care environment is crucial to the success and the wellbeing of the patients we serve. Service…it’s a privilege.