Why is Customer Service the Crux of Health Care Industry?
Customer service has become one of the greatest priorities of business owners nowadays, in terms of having increased business productivity, better reputation, and higher customer loyalty and commitment towards organization. Providing outstanding customer service is a prerequisite for building customer’s trust in a business and to establish long-lasting and profitable relationships. Customer service experiences are always judged on the basis of timeliness of the interactions than on the final outcomes.
IMPACT OF CUSTOMER SERVICE ON DIVERSIFIED BUSINESS INDUSTRIES
It is the remarkable and significant impact of customer service that its practices have penetrated into each and every business industry completely. From banking, telecommunications, information technology, education, travel & tourism, to retail and health care, every leading business industry is striving hard to design and deliver truly exceptional customer services, in order to achieve a sustainable, long-term and profitable growth.
SIGNIFICANCE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE PRACTICES IN THE HEALTH CARE SECTOR
The health care industry is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing industries. Health care is a basic necessity of every individual, rather than a luxury. The most important thing in a health care system is its focus on the customer/patient. However, from a global perspective and in comparison to other industries, health care industry still lacks world-class customer service practices, in terms of providing health care facilities to the patients. From a case study point of view, let’s take the example of UAE Health Care Industry.
- AN OVERVIEW OF THE UAE HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY
Over the past few years, UAE Health Care Industry has shown immense growth and significant progress due to the UAE government elaborated policies and regulations, and considering health care sector as one of their top priority sectors. The main health care authorities of UAE i.e. The Ministry of Health, Health Authority Abu-Dhabi (HAAD), the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), and the Emirates Health Authority (EHA) are striving hard to develop an innovative health care infrastructure to ensure the provision of world class health facilities to their patients, and raising the level of customer services.
Due to the strong economic and commercial stability, and the high commitment of UAE government towards the health care sector, the standards of UAE health care systems are increasing rapidly. The government of UAE allocates 8.77% of the total expenditure to the public health care, annually. However, with the fast growth and rising demands of the health care services, the investments in the health care sector are likely to be increased by 16% per annum, with the private sector being the significant contributor.
Apart from UAE’s health care industry progress and growth, country’s health care system still lacks to meet global standards of customer service practices, due to its higher population density and increasing consumer demands for health care goods and services. Let’s have a look at some of the poor customer service areas of UAE health care sector:
- IDENTIFYING KEY AREAS LACKING PROPER CUSTOMER SERVICE PRACTICES
According to the recent World Bank Population & Vital Statistics Report , the expected population of UAE for the year 2012 was 9.206 million. To cater and fulfill the health care needs of such a huge population is one of the major challenges faced by UAE health care providers. Several key areas of UAE health care sector have poor customer service practices and treatment towards patient.
i. CUSTOMER SERVICE QUALITY & STANDARDIZATION OF SERVICES
In order to provide truly exceptional customer services to patients, there is a need of standardizing the health care regulations across the country. However, UAE private and public health care sectors are suffering from a chronic shortage and turnover of qualified medical staff. According to a recent report by Health Authority Abu-Dhabi (HAAD), a total of 15% doctors, and 13% nurses left their jobs in year 2012, due to the poor employment facilities and lack of standardized customer service practices.
To overcome medical specialists and staff shortage, UAE health care providers usually hire staff from different countries. Managing staff from different medical approaches and practices, creating unprecedented patient care standards, and keeping a higher standard of customer service quality is a serious concern and key challenge being faced by UAE health care industry.
ii. NON UNIFORM RECORD-KEEPING OF DISEASE CATALOG
Keeping updated information about latest medical ailments and drugs is one of the crucial aspects of customer service practices in the health care industry. However, according to the Deloitte Survey of UAE Health Care Sector , some of the hospitals in Dubai are still using the ICD9 disease codes, while Abu-Dhabi has already implemented ICD10 codes. This irregular record-keeping of disease catalog could be a serious threat for patients and reflects poor customer service practices of the health care facility.
iii. SHORTAGE OF MEDICAL EQUIPMENT & DRUGS
Rudimentary medical equipment shortage is another grave concern being faced by some of the UAE health care facilities. The health care facilities being provided by the local health authorities like hospitals and clinics, as well as the federal government of UAE, lacks the most basic human touch and are suffering from detailed repeated medical negligence, shortage of medical equipment and drugs, and misdiagnosis of complicated conditions.
Abdullah Rasheed, the main Editor of Gulf News Abu-Dhabi, wrote:
“The medical services that come under the purview of federal health care system are, in general, very poor in all the hospitals and medical clinics in the Northern Emirates (Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah)”
He further elaborated,
“In the federally-run hospitals and clinics in the Northern Emirates, patients do not find needed medications. Often imported medications are purchased on a small budget allocated for such an important element of health care. Sometimes, medications are imported from cheap sources, and are often not effective.”
In the light of above, it is clearly obvious that the health care sector of Northern Emirates needs immediate attention of the UAE government, and the customer service practices must be strictly incorporated into the operational activities and systems of all the health care facilities.
iv. POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE MANAGEMENT IN EMERGENCY DEPARTMENTS
The health care facilities of Dubai and Abu-Dhabi are not much different than Northern Emirates in terms of customer service practices, despite the Health Authority Abu-Dhabi claims about meeting international standards in caring for people.
According to a reporter’s visit to the emergency departments of Shaikh Khalifa Medical Center (SKMC) or Al Mafraq Hospital:
“The emergency rooms are filled with tens, sometimes hundreds of patients, who wait for long hours before they can be seen by a physician. During the waiting period patients conditions may deteriorate, only to eventually be seen by a doctor for few minutes who, in turn, would prescribe painkillers!”
Emergency department is the most important area where patients come with serious medical ailments. It is the area where every patient must get special and immediate attention, along with vigilant communication and assistance of the hospital medical staff. But unfortunately, the above described conditions of the emergency department of Al Mafraq Hospital are highly alarming! Such situations arise daily in Abu-Dhabi hospitals, and patients may lose their lives because of the decline in the quality of customer service health care facilities.
v. CUSTOMER REVIEWS AND OPINIONS ABOUT UAE HEALTH CARE FACILITIES: SERVICE CONVENIENCE & MEDICAL FACILITATION
Customer opinions and suggestions have a great significance in the decision making process of health care policies and regulations, and it further open gates for future improvements and better results. Let’s have a look at some of the customer service experiences being shared by customers of UAE health care sector:
Shahid from Dubai wrote:
“I have been living in UAE for the last 3 years, and after a lot of research, have yet to find a good ENT specialist. It is high time that UAE government should take some serious action to curb the problems in the health care sector.”
NJ from Dubai wrote:
“My wife was diagnosed with diabetes. For first six months, we met two different doctors who treated her for type2 diabetes, whereas she had type1. Later we got an appointment of a renowned doctor, which gave an official confirmation of her being type1.”
Wasim from Abu-Dhabi wrote:
“I visited a clinic in a leading shopping mall of Abu-Dhabi. They charged me 550Dhs for just consultation. Shortly, I realized that they were using cheap sterile and drugs, but were charging a higher price. Health care has become a cash rich business now.”
Najitha Alambath from Abu-Dhabi wrote:
“I am the victim of negligence by one of the famous hospital in UAE. I was admitted for the delivery of my twins, and it was a C-section. During my surgery, my left calf had 2nd degree burn, which according to hospital authorities was due to a short circuit from the device. It was highly painful and I suffered a lot, as I wasn’t able to look after my twin babies almost a year.”
The above reviews are just a few examples of bad customer service experiences in relation to UAE health care sector.
- FORTHCOMING HEALTH CARE REFORMS TAKEN BY UAE GOVERNMENT
Despite facing multiple health care issues, UAE government is continuously working to address the concerns of the patients, and is trying to improve their health care customer service practices. Some of the affirmative steps being taken by the UAE government include:
- New world-class projects with elaborated policies and regulations in light of customers reviews and concerns
- Implementation of Dubai Strategic Plan 2015: Improved health services, quality control, access to medical facilities, public health promotion
- Private-Public partnerships: Technology & knowledge transfer, Access to specialist treatments, Inviting private sector for investment & to deliver highly exceptional customer services
- Smart Health Care Service Implementations : distribution of Android Tablets to review international trends and to improve customer service practices
- Improved level of health care facilities in Northern Emirates
- Enhanced coordination between the major stakeholders i.e. regulator, health care providers, health care professionals, patients and insurance companies.
- FUTURE CHALLENGES
The health care system of UAE is subjected to the following bigger challenges near future:
- the demographic shift
- the pace of technological innovation
- meeting consumer expectations
- rising costs of health care services
- WRITER’S VERDICT: VOLUME TO VALUE REVOLUTION
How UAE government can cope up with the forthcoming health care challenges?
What measures they should take to prepare for a personalized, preventive health care revolution?
What opens door towards coming health revolution?
The answer is: ‘Information Technology’.
ONLY TECHNOLOGY CAN BRING REVOLUTION IN THE HEALTH CARE SECTOR
Using power of information technology as a tool, UAE government can easily improve their health care standardization policies and regulations, and can create more personalized care. It has been observed that the technology-powered businesses reduce costs by 25% each year, while tripling value every three years.
An innovative technology driven revolution of health care industry can be helpful in:
- Ensuring consistent and comprehensive data capture
- Reinforcing the culture of information sharing
- Improving health care governance strategies for clinical and operational data
- Increasing access, driving up quality and reducing the overall cost of care