Image from Unsplash
Due to the aging baby-boomer population and the recent pandemic, the healthcare industry has been rapidly outpacing most other business sectors for the last several years in both hiring and revenue generation. However, excess growth always results in excess interest and this has caused the healthcare field to become one of the most highly competitive markets in the world. In order for companies to be successful in a competitive market, businesses must take steps to stay ahead of their competitors. Unfortunately for patients, the healthcare sector almost universally focuses on improving care, but not necessarily on making the consumer experience better. However, with the expanded competition within the industry, improving customer retention has become paramount. In addition to outdated technologies and procedures, which play a relatively minor role in patient satisfaction, generating a positive patient experience is tied mostly to their interaction with healthcare personnel.
A lot is made about “bedside manner,” and rightly so. As with any client-focused business, success is almost completely dependent on how well personnel interact with the customer and how effective healthcare operations management is. Nowhere is this more important than in a healthcare setting. The vast majority of people who go to the doctor are already apprehensive about their health in some way and it is imperative that your staff know how to make patients feel at ease, especially if the news is negative. In the healthcare setting, it is imperative to have caring, patient, and compassionate staff to interact with patients at each step. Even if your facility has the most skilled doctors and nurses in the community, you will not be winning any awards if your staff does not have the patience to deal with even the most difficult patients in an empathetic manner. Staff must also know how to communicate effectively with patients and other employees. These skills must always be addressed during the hiring process for doctors, nurses, and support staff.
Training new employees properly is always the best way to prevent having to retrain them.
Put a plan in place that thoroughly covers and succinctly communicates all of the aspects of the type of behavior you expect your employees to follow. This goes for all staff from the front-desk receptionist to physicians. An examination of current staff behavior will help create a “training needs analysis” that will help you identify areas in your employees’ skills that require improvement and aid in establishing clear goals for your training programs that are measurable and patient-centered. Begin by critically observing how your employees interact with patients throughout all phases of the visit to see if they are courteous, thorough, knowledgeable, and communicative. Use the gathered information to write up a new training manual for new employees as well as retrain current staff.
Complaints in healthcare settings almost universally have more urgency than in other businesses. Patients will usually become anxious and frustrated when an unresolved issue concerns their health, and this tends to make them more impatient. The most effective way to reduce these types of issues is to find out what the most common complaints are and take steps to eliminate them. The most effective way of learning what complaints patients have is to ask them questions that are designed to root out any problems they experienced with their care. In addition to helping eliminate issues in service, speedy complaint resolution leads to a more positive experience and greater customer satisfaction. One of the most effective means of collecting feedback is with a patient feedback survey sent via email or text message after their visit. Just be sure to keep the feedback form short, with no more than five questions, or patients tend to become impatient and abandon the survey.
The AHRQ, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in their annual report to congress stated one of the most promising improvements in healthcare was better patient-provider communication. Additionally, the World Health Organization has stated workforce management and training are two of the most important factors in providing better healthcare to patients. While new technologies and medical procedures most certainly have a role in improving healthcare, the patients’ overall satisfaction is largely determined by their interactions with the medical staff.