Customer service expectations for the medical community

Pronto SocorroEveryone needs medical attention from time to time, and the  professional medical community needs to think convenience, price, quality, and partnership. It used to be that a three-hour wait in the emergency room for a broken bone was to be expected, but that miserable experience has now gone the way of the dinosaur. Why? Customer service and expectations have changed the genre of urgent care as well as routine medical services.

Frederick Newell, author of Loyalty.com says if  you “save customers time, you’ll often beat the competition by lowering “time costs.” Hasn’t the time element always been one of the biggest complaints of medical services? It seems the medical sector has addressed many customer complaints by scheduling appointments online, sending medical records securely and electronically, and even employing self testing for medical conditions ranging from diabetes to asthma. Patients can upload results to their computers, save time and money avoiding a visit to the physician’s office, and have their health monitored in between visits while saving time and money.

My own experience brought me to the local urgent care center three weeks ago when I took a nasty fall and broke my wrist. My decision for not going to the local emergency room was the traditional lengthy wait time and the expense. Isn’t it ironic that my copay for an urgent care center was half of what it would have been for the same care at an emergency room?

Even though there are spiraling medical costs, regulatory pressures, and consumer advocacy, we still do have high expectations. The urgent care center was compassionate, pleasant, and diagnosed the break; suggesting I visit an orthopedic specialist for follow up care. I was treated medically and emotionally; never broke anything before and being left-handed was not the news I wanted to hear, but the genuineness, attitude, and demeanor made a less than pleasant experience palatable.

Here are my suggestions for any medical professional concerned about their customer service. After all a physician can’t just say, “I hope to see you soon.”

  • Your staff should be friendly, helpful and take the time to answer a patient’s questions whether it be about waiting time or what a patient can expect. Some offices interview patients first to educate and soothe the tense, anxious, or even embarrassed concerns they may have previous to meeting with the doctor.
  • Survey patients right after their appointment either in person or by email. Ask the patient if she was satisfied with the care she received, and what could be done to make the experience better. This will give you time to evaluate your employees and how they are interacting with patients.
  • Have a friendly, inviting waiting room. Make sure the staff smiles and is friendly.
  • A staff member should greet every patient when the patient is being led into the examination room. The staff member should walk at the patient’s pace.
  • Physicians should adhere to the “4 C’s” that being concern, civility, congeniality, and courtesy.

photo credit: Tarcísio Vasconcelos

One Response to “Customer service expectations for the medical community”

  1. Jim Watson said:

    Jan 15, 11 at 1:24 am

    Cheryl, this is a wonderful piece, on a hot (and getting hotter) topic. With 10,000 people a day turning 65 every day for the next 15 years, the number of visits to health care providers is going to increase dramatically.

    And this is the same generation of people who have raised expectations for customer service.

    The perfect storm is brewing for a transformation within the health care industry, toward patient-centric service. Your article and the associated links captured that well.

    Thanks,
    Jim