In 2006, new healthcare reimbursement regulations forced organizations to start viewing patients as customers. Your patients are your customers, and your reimbursement for care delivered dictates that you treat them as such, using skills specifically tailored for offering good customer service in healthcare.
As a healthcare provider, you are on the one hand serving a customer while also being responsible for providing quality patient care. Striking a balance requires both excellent clinical and customer service skills. For that reason, it’s important to take the time to identify the necessary competencies for good customer service in healthcare.
Suggestions for customer service in healthcare
Most patients have fairly basic needs in regard to their expectations of customer service in healthcare. They want to know who is handling their care, how much their visit will cost, and setting customer expectations for what will happen during their visit. In its most basic form, patients want to be informed when it comes to their care.
Make a good first impression
A patient’s first visit sets the tone for all their future visits to your office. This means that it’s up to you, as a healthcare worker, to make a great first impression. This goes for all employees- from front desk staff, to medical assistants, nurses, and doctors.
This could mean that you look to hire employees who have a history of helping people. That may be through past employment or volunteer work, for example.
Keep your promises
Inconsistent follow-through can be incredibly frustrating. We’ve all experienced the annoyance that comes from a guarantee that something would be completed by a certain date, only to be left hanging when the time comes around.
A best practice is to never leave your patients in a lurch. If you tell a patient you’ll get back to them by a certain date, make sure you follow through. And if you aren’t able to complete the task for one reason or another, let them know. If you have doubts about being able to follow through, don’t make the promise to begin with.
Keeping your commitments, even the small ones, makes all the difference when offering good customer service in healthcare. This, combined with setting appropriate customer expectations, is a recipe for practice and customer success.
Listen when patients have complaints
Accepting customer complaints can be difficult and frustrating, especially when you feel you’re doing your very best. But dealing with every complaint and giving them genuine consideration gives you the opportunity to improve the customer experience, and potentially your own. At the very least, your acceptance of criticism and suggestions is likely to build a sense of trust and loyalty for your patients.
This is especially true if you’re able to welcome suggestions, take action to resolve the issue, and follow up with the patient.
Make the patient experience simple
Making the patient experience as straightforward as possible is a huge selling point for patients. It also means you’re far more likely to get the patient engagement you’re looking for. For many practices, this means incorporating healthcare-specific technology. Allowing patients to schedule appointments via text, accommodate their busy schedules by offering telehealth appointments, and sending electronic forms to gather intake information, shows that you have considered the patient perspective.
Data shows that 75% of patients are comfortable communicating their health information through digital channels rather than in person. This means that caring for patients in the way they prefer may include implementing the use of telehealth at your practice.
Show your appreciation
Without your patients, your practice wouldn’t exist, so remember to show gratitude to your patients! A genuine ‘thank you’ is immensely meaningful.
It’s safe to say that most people love to receive ‘Happy Birthday!’ messages. Leveraging information from your EHR to send messages on birthdays or holidays is an easy way to build relationships with your patients, to show you’re thinking of them, and to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Don’t forget about your employees!
Treat each other like customers. This makes the workplace experience far more enjoyable, and sets a precedent for how to treat patients, too. Leading by example and implementing great customer service with your fellow healthcare providers allows everyone to model their behavior with patients off what they have observed through interactions with their colleagues.
Skills to look for in your staff
These days, being an educated healthcare provider is generally not enough to maintain patient satisfaction and customer retention. Most patients are also looking for transparency, communication, and a genuine connection with their providers.
This means that along with good clinical skills, providers need to be able to offer excellent customer service. So how do you identify individuals who can bring these skills to your practice?
Identify strong communication skills
Communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is an essential component of the patient experience. This means that healthcare providers need to be skilled at speaking with patients and actively listening to them.
When looking for new staff members, consider a role-playing scenario that may take place at your office. This will allow prospective employees to either display their communication skills, or show where they excel and where they may need a bit more training.
Managing a successful practice requires incredible time management skills. Scheduling multiple patients for a variety of visit types, and potentially for multiple providers, is a lot to keep track of. It is made even more difficult by patient no-shows and late arrivals. But nonetheless patients expect to be seen on time.
That’s why time management skills are a necessity for healthcare professionals. Although some individuals are better at time management than others, these skills can be learned. Identifying a solid workflow for scheduling and patient intake is crucial for good customer service in healthcare.
Emphasize empathy and compassion
Empathy and compassion are highly sought-after skills, especially in the healthcare industry. Although being empathetic and compassionate are partially personality traits, they can also be learned. And most importantly, they go a long way to improve patient care and make patients feel seen, heard, and understood.
You can also identify if new employees have these skills during an interview through role playing. And if they seem to be lacking, but are otherwise well suited for the position, consider implementing empathy and compassion training during your onboarding process.
Excellent service, combined with high-quality clinical care, builds trust and patient satisfaction at your practice. Improving customer service offered at your practice using healthcare-specific technology is a game-changer.