Customer service, not quality of care, is the main reason that patients complain following an interaction with a healthcare organisation, according to a study of nearly 35,000 online patient reviews.
Thanks to almost all other industries being so focused on customer satisfaction, the bar has been set high and although nicknamed recession-proof, the medical sector is not immune to the high standards demanded by it’s patients.
So, when a patient enters into your medical practice, what can you be doing to not just meet, but exceed, their expectations?
Making patient service great
From first impressions and training your staff to showing appreciation to patients and exceeding their expectations, you’ll make it very easy for your patients to have a great service.
But this isn’t always so easy. It’s likely you have to juggle a whole range of emotions, sensitive circumstances and individual needs with the “experience”. However that’s not to say it shouldn’t be ignored.
Simple strategies such as not keeping patients waiting too long, treating patients with dignity whilst in your care and answering questions they have in a reassuring way will contribute significantly to that experience.
Satisfaction doesn’t start or finish at the door
The expectation for the kind of experience a patient is going to get in the doctor’s office begins well before they even set foot in the door. From appointment booking phone calls, accurate appointment reminders to forums to securely ask questions about their visits – be it physical planning such as fasting to expected appointment duration and payment options – the tone is set.
Further, their opinion may have been influenced well before they even booked the appointment thanks to the public voice of the internet where doctor and clinic reviews are readily available.
Follow-up care also pays a significant role in influencing customer service. Accuracy of timing for results to be shared, ease of healthcare rebate redemption, appointment book availability for further appointments.
Personalisation is key
Ensuring your patients know they are not just another number is essential. Recently, personalisation has been identified as the most critical factor that customers use to determine which company to engage within other sectors – and the same theory should apply to the medical sector.
Personalisation is viewed as a commitment to service excellence. Just like a patient is seeking to be understood and empathised with, as a customer, they expect their healthcare professional to know what they want, the type of communication they want to receive and to know how they may react when receiving it.
The preference for digital
According to a McKinsey report, consumers increasingly expect digital tools to be a core part of healthcare delivery, which that should come as no surprise. Medical practices can learn from companies in other industries to engage with their patients in ways they want and need it.
For instance, don’t underestimate the process by which patients will select a doctor. Your practice and personal reputation is likely to be researched ahead of an appointment. Your presence – in the virtual sense – needs to engage prospective patients and demonstrate the experience they will undergo if they choose and engage you as their professional.
At the end of the day, people don’t seek healthcare services when they are feeling well. They typically engage with medical providers to seek help for themselves, a friend or a family member when presented with ill-health. Health issues can be stressful. While a customer chooses his/her interactions, and a patient may be forced to participate in an experience, there is still a seller and a buyer and at the end of the day. And, when a premium is being paid, regardless of what is being bought, there is an expectation for better quality and better service.
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