As a patient experience consultant, here are the five most essential points I bring to my consulting clients, whether they’re hospitals, outpatient facilities, or other healthcare environments and practices. Improving patient satisfaction, customer service and the customer experience, and, of course, HCAHPS scores: Here are eight key points I find myself emphasizing frequently (as a consultant and professional keynote speaker) in hospital and other
1. Great customer service means systems as well as smiles. When Mayo Clinic overhauled their scheduling system they employed)industrial engineers using stopwatches to time wheelchairs between appointment locations in order to ensure that correct scheduling algorithms were created.
2. Not-for-profit hospitals and institutions in healthcare can benefit by recognizing and embracing their inherent organizational advantage over for-profit institutions, as follows: It is easier for the employees to identify with the aims of an organization that doesn’t have profit at the center. If you’re not for profit, be aware of this advantage and make the most of it.
3. Bullying and disrespect lead to turnover. According to a recent study, working in an environment characterized by bullying increases turnover intentions of nurses, and employees report high turnover intentions whether directly bullied or simply in a work unit with bullying. (You didn’t need a study to tell you this, so search out and destroy bullying before it destroys you.)
4. Every single employee needs to know how to handle customer complaints and concerns. Even if handling the concern means “I’m finding you someone right now who can address this” it’s far better than “I can’t help you, I’m the wrong person.”
5. Much of what’s wrong in patient satisfaction and customer service is related to poor use of language, and to nonverbal “language” cues (such as hospital employees avoiding eye contact with civilians in the hospital, and acting like they are “other” from us).
6. A blame-free environment leads to improved transparency, improved systems, and, ultimately, to better results. This has worked to make The Ritz-Carlton a great culture, and it can do the same for your hospital. Horst Schulze, founder of the modern-day Ritz-Carlton brand (and now Capella and Solis), frequently says “If a mistake happens once it may be fault of employee. If it happens twice, it is most likely the fault of the system.” So, they get to work fixing the system. So should you.
7. Strive to deliver service on the schedule of your patient, not just a schedule that happens to be convenient for your institution. For example: Avoid unnecessarily long waits for lab results to be distributed; this practice is disrespectful and even cruel.
8. You’ll make the most progress on HCAHPS, and as an institution, by taking a relatively broad approach to the subject. Being too selectively focused on the individual HCAHPS questions can actually backfire. A more effective and powerful goal is to create an organization-wide halo effect that raises your scores as well as your actual rate of referral — not just the hypothetical “willingness to recommend.” (For a longer piece of mine on HCAHPS and company culture, you may want to spend a minute with this recent article.)
Micah Solomon is a patient experience speaker and patient experience consultant and patient centered care consultant, as well as a patient experience keynote speaker, patient centered care speaker, and bestselling author. Click here for two free chapters from Micah’s latest book .