As a care provider, what does the term patient satisfaction mean to you?
This is an important question to ask ourselves, and can easily vary practice to practice. It’s obvious that patient satisfaction is an important element of what we do as healthcare providers, but there’s also a faint sense of confusion in the air when it comes to obtaining it. After all, every patient is different and we have rules and regulations to follow.
How do we work towards patient satisfaction on an individual basis while following protocol in a way that reflects well on our practice as a whole?
Try working backwards.
Healthcare the Amazon Way
Amazon has an interesting way of taking care of their customers. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, states: "We start with the customers need and we work backwards." We all know how successful Amazon has been, so their system obviously works. In fact, Amazon customers are some of the most satisfied customers in the world!
The word customer, according to the dictionary, is a person or organization that buys goods or services from a store or business. This can only mean one thing.
In the healthcare world, patients are the customers.
If patients are our customers, and we want them to be happy, consider trying the Amazon way —working backwards using a customer-first model.
How to Design a Customer-First Model at Your Practice
If we want to obtain true patient satisfaction, patients need to be attracted to the institution before they ever even need—let alone receive—care. To help shift our point of view let’s see how things are done in the medical world vs. the “real” world.
Medical World: The patient receives medical treatment, receives a survey three weeks after their visit, and their bill a month later.
Real World: The customer receives the bill at a restaurant, they pay immediately and rate the experience one to five star after they pay.
Let’s look at the current healthcare process in place to see how we can design a customer-first experience.
1. Take the Patient Journey
We can start by taking the journey with our patients from the time they walk through the door until they’re recovered and safe at home. This starts with the front-line staff.
My son was recently admitted to the PICU and our two day stay with this particular hospital began with a less than friendly admissions desk clerk. This set the tone for my husband and I as we nervously waited to find out what was going on with our son. No one wants to feel pushed aside or disrespected when they’re already feeling vulnerable.
Because the patient journey starts in the waiting room, patient feedback can start there too. Consider ways of gathering feedback about the check-in process during or close to the time of the visit, instead of waiting to send a survey weeks later. Patients expect an insurance bill to come in the mail, but staying engaged throughout their visit can enhance patient satisfaction by letting them know they’re being heard.
2. Listen During Discharge
More often than not, front office staff are so busy during patients’ discharge that often patients are simply given their paperwork and instructions, told to call their doctor if certain problems arise, and are sent on their way. However, what if we took a few minutes to sit down with each patient at discharge and listen to what they have to say? Not only would this make them feel like we truly care about them, the care they received and they’re overall well-being—but it would provide us with a much needed learning opportunity.
Any and every organization could learn a great deal by asking the following questions at discharge.
- How did you know you needed to come to the hospital/healthcare center?
- Why did you choose us?
- Did you go online before you came to us to check wait times? (Super tip: post waiting room wait times for the customer online to save phone calls to the front desk)
- If you looked online, was the time accurate?
- Was the front desk staff empathetic and friendly?
- How long did you wait before seeing your doctor?
- On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best, how did the staff treat you?
- How could we have improved your experience?
3. Consider Taking the Care to the Patient
Virtual healthcare is a new concept, but improving patient care daily! According to the Wall Street Journal, over 60 percent of Americans want virtual healthcare. When you’re sick, getting dressed, showered and out the door to the doctor's office is miserable.
More and more providers are putting themselves in the patient’s shoes and seeing the value of virtual health. On demand video visits provided through health insurance companies offer the convenience of seeing someone immediately. However, patients often prefer seeing their own provider with full access to their full medical history. Practices that have a telemedicine program are offering patients an ideal virtual healthcare option.
When businesses start to put themselves in the patient's shoes and change their way of doing things, patient satisfaction is guaranteed to go up. Patients deserve quality care, especially when they are sick. What are we waiting for? It's time to step up and develop better patient-customer relationships.