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There is a lot of debate regarding whether medicine is a business, a service, a calling, a talent, or a skill. No matter what your position on the subject, there are changes occurring that need to be recognized and addressed in order to keep your healthcare organization or practice growing.
Whether you call them patients, clients, customers, or prospects, these people have more control over your business than ever before. In The Age of the Customer, a book by Jim Blasingame, he points out how we have moved to this new age where the customer needs more attention and focus than in decades past. The reason for this shift is the amount of information that is now easily accessible. More and more, people are using the Internet to research products, companies, hospitals and physicians. In 2010, 88% of adult Americans used the Internet to search for health-related information. Patients are researching conditions, symptoms, treatment options, hospital and physician services, and patient reviews of those services. In fact, 47% looked up information about their providers, 30% compared physicians, and 15% compared hospitals online before making a decision where to go.
Customer Service in Healthcare
With so much information at their fingertips, patients now have more power to make or break a reputation, as well as a business. Just like the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys report on several variables, healthcare review websites allow patients to rate and comment on items such as:
- Overall Rating
- Communication skills (explanation of medical care/treatment, follow-up, attentiveness, listening skills, and bedside manner)
- Access (availability of appointments, ease of scheduling, punctuality)
- Facilities (office cleanliness, lab services, waiting room accommodations)
- Staff (courtesy, friendliness, professionalism)
The public is demanding more online health care provider information, and the Internet is becoming the primary source. With that in mind, healthcare providers need to be more proactive and understand what patients want, as well as how review sites work.
Like all “customers”, patients want efficiency, humanity, reliability, personalization, and warmth. They want communication where they are spoken with, not at, and can ask questions. Patients want their time respected, and their opinion, too, by friendly and helpful healthcare providers and staff. In addition, more and more, patients want easy and quick access to their health care providers or someone that they can contact for questions. Availability of an after-hours nurse triage service can also provide the communication that patients are seeking. (For suggestions on improving patient satisfaction, see http://triagelogic.com/ways-to-improve-patient-satisfaction)
As Fred N. Pelzman, MD, expressed, “For our patient-centered medical home to truly be patient centered, we need to hear the voices of our patients, to listen and learn from their experiences moving through our practice.”
Bassam, K. (2011) Analysis of 4999 Online Physician Ratings Indicates that Most Patients Give Physicians a Favorable Rating. Journal of Medical Internet Research. Retrieved online Feb. 6, 2013 from http://goo.gl/3daKZn
Conerly, B. (2014). The Age of the Customer: New Techniques, Old Values. Forbes.com. Retrieved online, Feb. 6, 2014 from http://goo.gl/ffZ5pi
Ellimoottil, C. (2013). Online physician reviews: The Good, the bad, and the ugly. Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons. Retrieved online Feb. 6, 2013 from: http://goo.gl/TxwG3d