Organizations within the healthcare space, such as doctor’s offices and hospitals, almost always have a singular focus guiding their practice: treating as many people as possible as successfully as possible. It’s an important priority, and one that should remain, but too often, this priority eclipses important business fundamentals like customer service, leaving unhappy patients who never return, or eventually complain about the organization.
Why Service Should Matter in the Healthcare Industry
Customer service is the top priority in most service-related industries, but it takes a backseat in the healthcare industry. However, it should be a higher priority for more than one reason:
- Operational efficiency. Happy patients are easier to deal with, and their lower stress and higher comfort may end up leading to faster and better health outcomes. Ultimately, that means running a more efficient and more successful business.
- Patient retention. Patients who are satisfied with their experience are less likely to switch doctors or hospitals, and will have higher rates of loyalty over the long term.
- Reviews. Don’t forget that patients can review hospitals the same way they review other businesses; good customer service means better reviews, and more patients in the future.
Common Patient Complaints
One of the best ways to improve your service is to look at the shortcomings and failures of others, and guard yourself against them by improving your own services. You’ll differentiate yourself strongly, and prevent some of the most common customer complaints you’d otherwise face:
- Scheduling difficulties. Every healthcare organization needs to take and manage appointments, but the process can be difficult, confusing, or stressful for patients who just want to get treatment as soon as possible. They might have to wait for an extended period of time on the phone, or might not be able to cancel an appointment before they’re charged a cancellation fee. That’s where new software like SimplyBook.Me is making big changes—thanks to online appointment setting and intuitive user interfaces, patients can schedule, change, or cancel their appointments easily, and get reminders when an appointment is coming up.
- Disagreements with staff. Patients also frequently have disagreements with staff members at different stages of the process. If they get a rude receptionist, their entire visit may be discolored. If they aren’t getting enough help when understanding their bill, they may never want to return. It’s important to train all your staff members, from beginning to end, on the importance of positive patient interactions.
- Feeling unheard. If a patient feels like they aren’t being heard, either because their symptoms aren’t being addressed enough or because there aren’t enough personalized solutions available to them, they’re going to have a bad experience. It’s hard to gauge whether you’re listening to your patients enough without a firsthand account, so consider using standardized patients as “secret shoppers” that can give you more information on your practice.
- Not getting enough time with the doctor. Most people want to spend as much time with the doctor as possible, learning more about the condition they’re facing and being reassured or instructed as clearly as possible. Most hospitals want to see as many patients as possible in a small amount of time, leading to a discrepancy. It’s important to find a balance here, operating efficiently but without shooing patients out the door.
- Waiting too long. Patients often complain about waiting too long in waiting rooms for their scheduled appointments, due to backups that happen earlier on in the day. Unfortunately, for busy hospitals, there aren’t many ways to resolve this. However, you can make the wait more tolerable by providing entertainment and transparency (including estimated wait times) to your waiting patients.
- Confusion with insurance and billing. Health insurance is notoriously complicated, and medical bills can be confusing as well. After receiving treatment, if a patient is confused about what they owe or what their insurance is able to pay for, they may not want to come back for a return visit. The best thing you can do here is explain your billing and insurance process as simply and straightforwardly as possible, with the understanding that it may be confusing to the non-initiated.
It doesn’t take much to proactively address these patient complaints in your own organization. Some extra training, a renewed commitment to patient satisfaction, and a handful of useful tools may be all you need to differentiate your organization and skyrocket your patient retention.