Providers: Mind the Gap

Providers: Mind the gap

Bridging the patient communications divide in healthcare

Consumers today can order a new gallon of milk on their phones before the refrigerator door slams shut. Or feast on endless music or movie streaming for less than it costs to buy enough of that milk for a family of four for a month. We’re living in the “golden age of convenience,” says Wired magazine — and it’s just the beginning.

“We’ve got more access to more stuff than ever before, at cheaper prices and ever-more-instant speeds,” the publication recently reported. “And the businesses who hawk us that stuff? They’ve got unprecedented levels of data on us, and they’re using it to target us in ever-more personalized ways.”

That is, unless we’re talking about the U.S. healthcare system, an industry that historically sets a high bar when it comes to clinical care but leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to service and the consumer experience. Unconvinced? Just ask patients: In a July 2018 study, McKinsey & Company offered a blunt assessment of the industry, concluding that “consumers want more from the healthcare industry.” And they’re putting the patient experience near the top of their wish list.

“When survey respondents were asked what would make a healthcare company ‘the best,’ coverage was ranked as most important (23 percent), followed by customer service (11 percent), cost (7 percent), and access (6 percent),” the study’s authors wrote. “Such basic ‘asks’ would be unheard of in most industries.”

Service recovery: Engaging patients directly

In its findings, McKinsey also stressed the importance of engaging directly with patients to bridge this disconnect, just as well-established brands in other sectors of the economy have done for years. With this in mind, many leading hospital executives are looking beyond healthcare for inspiration on how to build trust with patients and inspire brand loyalty.

One such engagement strategy is service recovery. Pioneered by the travel and tourism industry decades ago, the practice means stepping in to address an issue or concern in real time. Often times, patients and their families who are encountering a stressful healthcare situation only want to be heard, and service recovery is a way for providers to engage them directly while attempting to meet their expectations.

Still, many providers don’t know where to start; they lack either the ability to identify customer service needs or they don’t have the right mechanisms in place to take real-time corrective actions — or both. In either case, here’s how providers can start the service recovery feedback loop:

  • Set a goal: What is your organization trying to achieve, e.g., higher volume or better customer satisfaction scores? Identifying the goal will help your team pick the right technology tools or manual processes for achieving the desired result.
  • Pick the right tools: There’s a variety of technology applications and strategies for gathering consumer data, so it’s critical to select the right one for the specific organization.
  • Commit to seeing it through: Continuous improvement should be made a priority once the service recovery feedback loop is operational. Similarly, facilities should have a plan that emphasizes the following five service recovery best practices:
  • Listen
  • Offer a blameless apology
  • Offer to help
  • Follow through
  • Keep it professional

Interested in learning more about bridging the patient-provider communications gap? Let’s talk.

Based in New York City, Quality Reviews, Inc., was founded by leading healthcare providers and entrepreneurs with a combined 30-plus years of clinical, healthcare administrative and technology building experience. We build proprietary software to help healthcare provider organizations capture and analyze real-time patient feedback to facilitate service recovery.

With hospitals today operating on the narrowest of margins, losing even one patient over poor customer service is too many. Complicating matters, most healthcare organizations still use traditional surveys to track and monitor patient satisfaction metrics, putting them at a considerable disadvantage in terms of identifying service recovery opportunities.

We make it easy for patients to provide real-time feedback — and even easier for healthcare leaders to improve service based on this feedback. Utilizing real-time feedback, our service recovery and daily performance improvement tools help shift the focus onto the patient and promote a culture of service excellence.

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