Shahzad Qureshi (January 19, 2015)
Being in a hospital or clinic can be a frightening experience, as patients may feel tremendous pressure and nervousness. In such a scenario, it becomes essential for professionals in healthcare facilities to provide a relaxing and comfortable experience to the patients. Getting individual attention and care from doctors and nurses at all times is important to the patient. The entire experience at a healthcare facility, from staff interaction to environment needs to be well structured and must meet the customer service standards like other industries. Let’s take a look at what areas should be focused on and kept into consideration when providing service:
Healthcare facilities are often thought of as being cold, aloof and gloomy. Although this is a general perception and does not hold true for all facilities, but hospitals and clinics should work on creating a comfortable ambience which is patient friendly. Appropriate interior design, lights and color combination can contribute towards creating a patient friendly environment. Likewise, the furniture should be comfortable for the patients and their visitors.
One of the most important factors to keep in mind while providing service in the healthcare industry is empathy. Patients arrive at a hospital or clinic in a vulnerable state, hence understanding their needs becomes a prerequisite. Hospital staff should be adequately trained to exhibit positive tone and body language which may include maintaining eye contact, being polite and listening attentively. Staff at the facility should include words like, “I am here to help you”, “I understand” in their conversations to make the patient feel relaxed and comfortable.
Medical staff should be able to put themselves in the patient’s shoes while interacting with them. Patients suffering from life threatening ailments must be consoled, while maintaining a professional decorum. Ideally, patients need to be directed towards therapists or professional counselling to deal with their depression and lift their spirits. Alternatively, patients should be provided information on support groups which can be beneficial for support and information sharing.
The availability of accurate and swift information is vital to the operation of any healthcare organization. The medical staff dealing with patients should be equipped with the correct and up-to-date information. Ideally, medical staff members dealing with patients should have access to a database containing all relevant information such as patient history and details related to the ailments. Many healthcare organizations have adopted the use of smart tablets and other handheld devices to make sure that that staff members have access to all the relevant information at all times. The use of technology also makes recording/maintenance of records easier and automated. The use of tablets also allows better inter-departmental communication. For example, test results from the pathology department can be directly uploaded onto the database, which will give access to physicians right away.
Many hospitals and healthcare facilities maintain electronic health records of their patients, which contains all the information regarding the patient including, illness, visits, medicines prescribed, surgical operation history and any allergies. The maintenance of such a system ensures accurate and swift sharing of information between different hospitals and doctors. The organized nature of the records reduces the effort and time to retrieve all the relevant information. For example, if a patient moves to a different city, his/her records will be part of the database and accessible to his/her new doctor, which means there is no need to start all over again and determine patient history from scratch.
An important factor in offering premium customer service to healthcare customers is to offer multi-channel communication, so that patients can easily reach you. Healthcare facilities should ensure that they make it easier for patients to contact and inquire for information. In addition to the conventional channels such as e-mail, phone, SMS and fax, web chat could also be offered to facilitate website visitors. Live chat service on a healthcare provider’s website could streamline the process for customers, since it will help them find the right information, request appointments and make queries about costs and services. It is essential that all communication channels should be well-integrated and efficient.
Proactively keeping customers in the loop and providing them with timely notifications will help enhance the customer experience and satisfaction level. Patients can receive these notification via their preferred channel of interaction. Pre-surgical and medication instructions should be communicated to patients through phone, email or text messages. Similarly, appointment reminders and alerts could be sent to them. Healthcare organizations can also use technology more effectively. For example, with the rising popularity of smartphones, an app could be designed, which would make it easier for the healthcare facility to communicate and improve the experience with personalized accounts and profiles. Patients could be informed and regularly updated through the app about appointments and medicines.
It is also of essential importance to gather feedback from patients to assess and evaluate the quality of service delivered. Electronic kiosks and suggestion boxes can be added at facilities to get feedback. Patients should be asked to rate the service received. The data complied should be analyzed to help measure and improve customer satisfaction level.
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