Based on my past experiences, there are numerous improvements in customer service that are needed in healthcare. One of those improvements is striving to provide services on time and as per the schedule agreed with the customer. In the past, I have seen some patients wait for several hours before they can get their lab results or bill issues sorted in hospital. Such delays need to be eliminated and instead have timely services. Wait times should be kept at a minimum and of 10 minutes or less. If anything unusual happens and the wait time extends, the customers should be notified immediately. Nurses and other staff working in hospitals should be trained how to share the expected wait times for various services. I liken the extended wait times with delayed flights which can have detrimental impacts on the customers.
Another improvement that is needed relates to honesty and open communication among the staff. Outpatient providers and other non-clinical employees need to learn how to listen to customers and provide honest feedback. For example, there is no need of deceiving the customer that everything is and will be alright whereas their conditions indicate otherwise. Besides clinical information, they ought to be honest when sharing non-clinical information such as bed space and bills. Also, the healthcare sector needs to emulate other customer-oriented businesses by encouraging patients to ask questions. It should not always be one-way communication with the care providers giving instructions to customers. Instead, they should urge their patients and families to put forward any questions they have at all times. With open and honest communication, customers can develop positive interactions with the care givers.
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Customer service can also be improved by eliminating blames placed on customers. I have in the past been a victim of blame from the care givers. A nurse once attributed the failure of a deep wound on my leg to heal because of my failure to clean and apply antiseptic appropriately. However, I believe physicians and other providers should minimize their blames on patients. As employees, it is likely for the healthcare professionals to be defensive when errors happen in their lines of duty. Instead, they should offer advice and positive criticism to the customers. In case of other non-clinical errors, the staff should solve them immediately without blaming customers. I believe blaming customers reduces the confidence and trust they have on the providers.
Cleveland Clinic is one of the institutions that improved customer service by implementing numerous changes. The institution adopted an open medical records policy where it availed lab reports and images to its patients. Since 2013, it has been using an online system that provides access to personal health records. Patients no longer need to travel to the clinics to get reports (Watson). Additionally, the institution streamlined its appointment process through open access scheduling. It made it possible for patients to access the hospital portal, check the schedule of their doctor, and book appropriate appointments. Also, it developed a patient portal that facilitates two-way messaging. The portal facilitated communication between the patients and the hospital staff. As a result, the hospital began handling more patients and improved their patient engagement efforts (Watson).
- Watson, Rachael. “Managing Patient Portals – Alego Health.” Alego Health, 2014, http://alegohealth.com/managing-patient-portals/.