My family recently had up-close interactions with two industries. One was with the travel industry and involved hours spent sitting on an aircraft that departed six hours late. The other was with healthcare and involved hours in an emergency department and a hospital admittance.
Where did we experience better customer service? The former. Communication and courtesy made the difference.
Everyone has stories of good and bad customer service involving the industries that touch our lives. But here’s the problem: From cradle to grave, consumers will have far more important interactions with healthcare professionals than, say, with flight crews, servers and salespeople.
All industries remain hobbled by a lack of workers and the latest COVID-19 variant that is prompting unanticipated sick days. Workers all over, particularly those in healthcare, are stressed, but so are consumers. What is more stressful than concerns about one’s health, particularly when the concern is unexpected or it’s a crisis? Everyone a patient meets along the journey needs to remember that and understand that communication is key.
More efforts to improve the process may be underway. The Leapfrog Group, a not-for-profit watchdog group, just issued a set of recommendations for hospitals, to help them lessen diagnostic errors and improve patient safety. The to-do list comes as Leapfrog takes steps to rate hospitals on those errors and make the reports public. Its definition of diagnostic error doesn’t just mean something is wrong; it also means when a correct diagnosis isn’t communicated to a patient or family members. So it’s no surprise that one theme woven through its recommendations is better communication.
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This past week, health systems were touting their places on U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of the nation’s best hospitals. The results are a much-used consumer marketing tool for healthcare organizations, particularly in competitive markets. Patients want the best healthcare they can afford and rankings may help them feel they’re receiving quality treatment at a well-regarded provider.
Consumers vote with their feet, and given the choice, they won’t return if the product or service is bad. Patients don’t always have that opportunity, and during a hospital stay, the outcome isn’t always positive. That’s why it’s imperative that providers, as well as payers, focus on the entire customer experience. Executives need to send the message throughout the workforce that a caring bedside manner shouldn’t be just by the bedside.
A holistic approach to communications, from the first interaction to the last, can be a win-win, providing the patient with a positive experience and the organization with a competitive edge.