Delivering personal attention
Every patient or family member who visits a healthcare provider wants to receive personal attention. That can be a challenge in high-volume clinics, hospitals, physician practices and other healthcare organizations. But in an era of growing patient choice, it’s a big mistake for busy staffers or professionals to handle each patient “like a number.”
Survey after survey consistently shows that patient satisfaction depends as how the physician, nurses and office staff handled the visit as well as the actual outcome. Even when patients receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, that positive outcome can be tarnished by other aspects of the visit.
Here are seven steps that healthcare organizations should take to deliver the personal service that “customers” demand today:
- Put it in writing. Patient satisfaction should be included as a goal in physician agreements, employee handbooks and orientation materials.
- Provide regular reminders. Along with posting signs at the front desk or in the break room, send regular emails or text reminders to staffers.
- Recognize positive performance. Managers should give a “pat on the back” when they see staffers go out of their way to listen to a patient, offer support or try to solve an immediate issue. Financial incentives, such as gift cards or bonuses, can also be good reminders.
- Offer education or training sessions on a regular basis. A new study or survey can serve as the basis for a timely reminder to staff members.
- Model desired behaviors. Office managers and physicians can serve as role models for delivering personal attention. Just as a restaurant manager or chef might stop by a table to ask diners who they liked their meals, an office manager could greet a patient at the discharge desk for a brief conversation about the visit.
- Track patient satisfaction. It’s almost impossible to determine how well the healthcare team is doing without a mechanism to gather patient comments and feedback. Giving patients and family members an opportunity to express themselves can help you improve service in the future. It also shows patients that you care about how they were treated and that their opinions matter.
- Respond to patient feedback. Many healthcare organizations that track patient satisfaction fail to respond to those comments. That’s a mistake. If you want patients to feel that their opinions matter, send a thank you response for their comments. If a patient with negative feedback provides his or her name, contact that person directly about how you are dealing with that issue.
By following these steps, you can create a culture of caring, where patients and family members tell their friends, “I feel like I was treated like a person rather than a number.”