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Improving Customer Service for Healthcare Professionals

1 Contact Hour
This peer reviewed course is applicable for the following professions:
Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN), Midwife (MW), Nursing Student, Occupational Therapist (OT), Occupational Therapist Assistant (OTA), Other, Physical Therapist (PT), Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA), Registered Nurse (RN), Respiratory Therapist (RT)
This course will be updated or discontinued on or before Monday, June 27, 2022
Outcomes

Healthcare professionals will understand the importance of seeing patients as customers and be able to answer their questions, improve credibility, resolve support issues, nurture relationships, thus maintaining customer loyalty to the facility they trust.

Objectives

After completing this continuing education course, the participant will be able to meet the following objectives:

  1. Discuss the importance of healthcare workers repeatedly having positive attitudes, manners, and that amenities encountered during customers' experiences at medical facilities weigh with similar importance to their treatment processes.
  2. Identify five strategies to provide customers with superior customer service.
  3. Explain three positive proactive customer service steps, which will maximize customer engagement and retention at every stage of customer interaction- before, during, and after customer visit to the hospital.
  4. List three purposes of a national survey called Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS).
  5. Describe at least four ways your healthcare providers can improve customer satisfaction in the healthcare facility where you work.
  6. Discuss how customers use social media to determine their healthcare choices of where they want to go for needed treatment.
  7. List three benefits of Airband when used in unserved rural communities helping to improve access to healthcare.
  8. Describe why online advertising of healthcare facilities, services, and physicians is beneficial to customers.
CEUFast Inc. did not endorse any product, or receive any commercial support or sponsorship for this course. The Planning Committee and Authors do not have any conflict of interest.

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To earn of certificate of completion you have one of two options:
  1. Take test and pass with a score of at least 80%
  2. Reflect on practice impact by completing self-reflection, self-assessment and course evaluation.
    (NOTE: Some approval agencies and organizations require you to take a test and self reflection is NOT an option.)
Author:    Donna Thomas (RN, MSN, BSHEd)

Introduction

Delivering quality customer service is a challenge in every industry, especially in healthcare organizations where life-and-death situations continuously occur. The goals of the customer (patient) are often complex and immediate gratification is expected.

Healthcare professionals, as care providers, serve customers who often are at the most vulnerable times in their lives. It is the healthcare professional's responsibility to communicate effectively, and in some cases, deliver news that can be devastating to an individual or a family. Consequently, healthcare workers must have a positive attitude, empathy, manners, and realize that amenities encountered during customer's experiences at medical facilities weigh with similar importance to their treatment processes.

According to a recent Gartner study, "Healthcare service organizations will need to raise their performance standards for today's varied points of patient engagement (mobile, text, email, etc.)."1 Many customers search online for the facility they will go to; therefore, online advertising is the most effective way to attract new customers, acquire them, and ultimately retain them.

Getting the healthcare consumer experience right requires greater alignment with what customers expect from other industries. It requires omnichannel provider interaction that emphasizes simplification and personalization. Finally, it must bring together the following five qualities healthcare consumers expect and increasingly demand.2

Five Qualities that Healthcare Consumers Expect

  1. Convenience – Healthcare consumers expect seamless, efficient access to care via phone, text, video, and multiple other channels. They expect easy access to care. Not only do they want the ability to consult with a physician without leaving home, but they also want the ability to know where they can go for fast treatment in a minor emergency. For example, pulling up anticipated wait times at local clinics on a phone or web browser.2 Offered to customers is the ability to Text/SMS to the healthcare facility, call them, and obtain information on pricing. Some online advertising describes the facility, services provided, and physicians working in the various departments. Also listed are the opinions customers had when they had gone to the facility and why they would or would not recommend the facility.
  2. Reliability – Healthcare consumers want consistency of care across channels, real-time interaction with providers via portals, and care coordination in and out of network.2 Customers want to know what to expect from their healthcare providers.
  3. Transparency – Healthcare consumers want to know the cost of their care-prescriptions as well as treatments-before getting it.2
  4. Quality – Healthcare consumers expect quality of care, which most providers are proactive about delivering, but provider focus is almost exclusively on individual treatment vs. holistic care.2
  5. Proactivity – Healthcare consumers want providers using data in a manner that is not merely predictive, but prescriptive. They expect a two-way relationship--not just visit-to-visit.2 Surveys are also done by organizations that need to know how specific healthcare institutes are effectively or not effectively treating their customers, and by those who contribute financially to each healthcare facility. The facility itself also does surveys to help improve services and to evaluate the services provided and how customers are treated by all healthcare personnel who interacted with them during their stay.3

Also noticed by customers was the cleanliness, odor, and how color, lighting, textures, provided a warm and comfortable non-threatening environment for customers and employees. Four elements required for an effective design were function, aesthetics, individuality, and economy. The purpose of having a reception area is to blend hospitality with wellness so that customers feel valued and want to return to the facility administering their care. These all contribute to employees' and customers' positive responses to the environment.

Those in administrative positions listen very carefully to their clients' leadership team to ensure that a customer's experience reflects the health care organization's mission of providing safe, quality care that's accessible and easy to navigate. Many administrators check online social networks to read feedback from customers and employees.

Consumers often self-diagnose with lots of information available over the internet. It is easy to search for local and nearby medical clinics and make decisions by checking their websites and ratings. Instead of using the phone to fix-up an appointment, the "next-gen" customers prefer booking their appointments online through the website or mobile app. Customers today need self-service access to their personal information and other healthcare-related content including appointment confirmations, health reminders, educational tips, etc.3

Because of the wide range of healthcare choices available nowadays, customers are making healthcare decisions based on accessibility, customer service, and cost. Managing customer engagement plays a critical role for healthcare providers to keep up with the high standards of care required by customers. Healthcare facility administrators and department managers need to strive to efficiently operate while delivering high standards of customer care to cope with the growing demands of customers and the rapid change in technology.3

Strategies to Provide Superior Customer Service2, 3, 4, 5

  • Courtesy and Respect
    • Always make sure customers are treated with courtesy and respect. Having the right attitude demonstrates a genuine desire to help people. It helps to greet customers with a smile and energy. Always give respect to gain respect! Customers need interns to be there for them. Caregivers need to leave their own problems at home and act as caring, professional individuals. Customers need to be treated the way the caregiver would want to be treated. Most customers do not choose to be in the hospital. If a customer is unhappy with the service provided, they will go someplace else that treats customers better. Customers' choices bring thousands and even millions of dollars into a hospitals' coffers.
  • Stay Informed
    • Tracking customers not only means keeping a close watch on their bills and documents, but means that the customer care staff should be able to resolve the patient's doubt clearly and in a timely manner. Customers want their queries or diseases to be checked by specialists rather than a general physician.
  • Never Argue or Fight with Customers
    • A customer to the hospital is what a guest is to a hotel. Directly or indirectly, they are customers of the healthcare sector. It is essential to clear any doubt that the customer has regarding their treatment. If they have any confusion, then the support team should resolve the same without indulging in any unnecessary argument with the customers.
    • Do not contradict, argue, or match wits with your customer. If you disagree with them, politely explain why their point of view isn't necessarily correct. Your goal should be to explain and communicate, and then to continue to explain and communicate. Help customers understand what is going on as treatment is provided. Customers should feel they are just as important, in the scheme of things, as you are. The following keys to successful interactions are helpful if there is a complaint:
      • Assure the patient that it will get addressed
      • Report to nurse or pertinent staff member
      • Follow-up in a timely manner
  • Simply Explain to Customers
    • Customers and their relatives might be anxious or in distress. Whenever you need to explain something to customers, use plain terms and simple explanations. When using the phone, never put someone on hold for more than 30 seconds without checking on them. When there are questions, answer every question as if it was the first time being heard. Find out answers to questions you do not know.
    • "How we speak to our customers is far more important than What we speak. Emotions when expressed in the right way at the right time give us an opportunity to connect with the customer for a life-time."5
  • Good Manners and Service Motive
    • Pleasant manners win the faith of the customers instantly. A customer service team should exude its excellent manners continuously. Examples of excellent manners include, but are not limited to, proper eye contact, listening with care, and personally handling customers' queries. Never show indifference to customers, no matter if they are not critically ill and have no life-threatening injury. A doctor told his residents that "they should know the color of the customer's eyes and the color of his/her shoes." In other words, look at your customer head to toe and not keep your eyes trained on the computer! Each customer is an individual with special needs.
  • Close Rapport with Patients
    • The customer service team should maintain a close rapport with every customer. Once a satisfied customer returns home after getting cured in a reasonable time frame created is a favorable image in the mind of the customer. Their experience is shared with others. At this point, the support team needs to maintain a good rapport with them for the future. Around two-thirds of healthcare professionals consider virtual care as a top priority.
  • Clean and Dirt-Free Appearance
    • It is a personal responsibility of the customer service team to ensure the cleanliness of the reception area and office. The cleaning staff should be asked to spray non-allergenic disinfectant throughout the hospital, ensure all bathrooms are stocked and cleaned frequently, and reception/intake areas are clean. Garbage cans or receptacles need to be emptied when they are almost full. Inside and outside of the facility should always be kept clean and dirt free. These actions create a good image of the hospital in its first instance when the customer visits. This helps to build trust and confidence of the customers as well.
  • Training and Motivation
    • All great customer-support executives can perform well only when supervisors provide them ongoing quality training. Thus, a hospital or healthcare sector should try everything possible to motivate the staffs' handling the customer support division.
    • One recent survey said the 44% of consumers want their ECG to be checked at home using the advanced device. This demand is growing day by day. Now, it is important for the customer support team to convince the patient to come to the hospital and get the same checked. This will ensure that medications get adjusted as needed and that natural herbs and supplements are not interfering with the customers' prescribed medications causing negative side effects.
  • Easy Availability of Medicine and Medical Supplies Under One Roof
    • A 2016 survey on healthcare analysis revealed 40% of customers believe more in bigger healthcare brands than others. In a hyper-competitive sector such as the healthcare industry, every step will be monitored.
  • Quick Response and Being Alert
    • Customers want immediate attention from hospital staff. A quick responsive staff is a key if a healthcare center wishes to win against its competitors. Being responsive means attending to customers' queries and needs instantly, and as well as supplying the necessary medicines and tablets straight to the house of the patients if they need the same urgently.
  • Well Behaved Doctors
    • Bad behavior from surgeon and physician can seriously anger any customer. That's why considering the rampant competitions in this field, the hospital administration must train its doctors in such an effective way that they should try to behave well with patients round the clock. No doctor should be called, "Dr. Ice"!
    • Good behavior from a doctor acts as a morale booster to the customers and on returning from the hospital what customers first remember is the behavior of the doctors. Therefore, all physicians and surgeons at a hospital must behave courteously, professionally and in a caring manner.
    • The primary reason why most customers prefer the bigger hospital and medical center is the easy availability of medicines and other support services. These big hospitals have departments dealing with medicines, medical equipment, expert doctors of different branches, modern lab access, and much more. Thus, customers can get all their necessary things and treatment under one roof instantly. Today, many medical centers are starting to follow this trend.
  • Thank Your Customers Frequently
    • The healthcare sector is all about customers. Their belief and faith will multiply the number of future customers in specific hospitals. It is imperative for the customer service team to thank each customer from time to time to make them feel valued and special. Tell your customers you appreciate their business and say thank you!
  • Keep your Promises
    • Do not promise something you have no control of and if you over-promised, be honest and own up to it. Never lose focus from the customer's requirement. Always give correct and complete information. Provide alternatives or realistic turnaround time when unable to immediately deliver the expectations.
  • Keep seeing healthcare as a calling
    • When healthcare becomes just a job, mistakes often may be made. There are so many complicated variables in healthcare that it is easy to get off track. Healthcare employees at times need to remember why they chose their profession and at times do a self-evaluation. Questions to ask themselves are whether they are happy in the profession they are currently in and what initially brought them into the healthcare field. Was it to take care of people or was it to make a lot of money, or both?
    • "Be passionate to deliver excellent customer service."4 This is the healthcare professional's best Medicine to improve Life Skills and in giving quality care to our customers.

Case Scenario 1

Night- time Hospital Receptionist in the Emergency Room called the Nursing Supervisor and Hospital Police for assistance if needed. Outside the Emergency room door was a young man yelling and screaming to a parking lot full of his friends who had been at his home celebrating his anniversary.

The Nursing Supervisor introduced herself, looked at him eye to eye, and said she could not hear him due to a deafness she had and asked him to lower his voice and to tell her what was going on, "since what he had to say was important". He stopped screaming and said his wife became ill at their anniversary party. His wife had chest pain, could not breath, became pale and he had called - 911. The ambulance brought her to this hospital, and he followed in his car with his friends behind him.

Once at the hospital she was rushed into the ER. No one would tell him what was going on and if she was alive or dead. He had been waiting about 30 minutes or more and was worried and very upset.

The Hospital Police were present with the Nursing Supervisor who said she would immediately see what was going on and encouraged the husband to come into the waiting room with his daughter. The Police showed him where the waiting area was and offered him coffee and another drink for his daughter. The Nursing Supervisor said she would inform him of what she had learned.

The Nursing Supervisor went into the customer care area and found out what was happening and asked when her husband and daughter could see her. The Supervisor returned with updated information and said he could see her once emergency tests were completed. The Supervisor told him that his wife was pain free, on a heart monitor, and breathing with oxygen. The doctor would be out as soon as he had the information from the tests being done and the course of treatment for his wife. The doctor said his wife had to be admitted for observation.

Since his wife was going to be admitted he was asked to encourage his friends to return to their homes. Only his wife's immediate family could visit for short intervals until she was feeling better.

The Nursing Supervisor apologized for the lack of communication and told the husband he did the right thing on calling 911. The husband thanked her for helping him and said he knew he drank too much!

Customer Service Software

Customer service software is specifically designed to maximize customer service engagement by utilizing these three basic features:6,7

  1. Delivering consistent Omnichannel Experience
    1. This system integrates multiple channels allowing a live customer service representative to have all the details of a customer's previous transactions taken place over any channel and would therefore know why the customer is calling, hence increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  2. Proactive Customer Service
    1. Healthcare systems nationwide must take steps to maximize customer engagement and retention at every stage of customer interaction- before, during and after the customer's visit to the hospital. This customer service provides proactive notifications via email, text message or a call about appointment confirmation, status updates, educational information, test report updates before the customer asks for it helps in this process. This service is vital for keeping the customers engaged, improve loyalty and ultimately the bottom-line.
    2. According to HealthSparq, provider-specific studies from Johns Hopkins and the University of Rochester show that proactive customer engagement lead to a 30% decrease in patient no-shows.5, 6, 7
    3. Benefits of proactive outreach for customers includes the following measures:5, 6, 7
      1. Send educational information based on appointment type and enhance customer engagement
      2. Reminders for lab customers to keep them on schedule
      3. Provide a secure link that allows customers to reschedule their appointment if necessary
      4. Provide customers with necessary information on insurance required prior to their visit
      5. Provide general information about hours of operation, directions, parking information, upcoming events, new physician announcements
    4. Benefits of proactive customer service for healthcare providers:5, 6,7
      1. Minimize customers' no show' rates by allowing them to reschedule before hand
      2. Keep the customers on schedule, thereby reducing wait time of doctors
      3. Increase number of patients seen and ultimately your revenue stream
      4. Decrease front office workload to help enhance the quality of patient communication
    5. Overall, a proactive customer service in healthcare creates long-term loyalty between customers and providers. It costs 90% less to get current patients to return in the future than it does to attract new ones
  3. Creating Meaningful Interactions5, 6, 7
    1. Healthcare providers need to understand the entire customer journey
    2. How we treat our customers reflects the staff's interactions not just the services provided
    3. Some healthcare facilities have a "No Point" policy which means if someone asks for directions then they are taken to their destination by someone assigned to do so
    4. Staff need to be aware of the following and how to improve their interactions with their customers
  • Noted by and evaluated by customers are:
    • Gestures
    • Facial Expressions
    • Pace
    • Degree of Formality
    • Touch
  • Listening Ability (two ears & one mouth): Listening is the building block of communication skills. One should have the basic etiquette of not interrupting the customer and should give full attention to ensure clear understanding of the customer's requirement, and when listening, be:
    • Clear, specific and direct
    • Repeat until HEARD (no yelling)
    • Be proactive
    • Be respectful

Other keys to Customer Interactions to avoid and/or to enhance communication:5, 6

  • Inappropriate Language:
    • Jargon
    • Acronyms
    • Non-universal expression
  • Non-verbal clues:
    • Body language
    • Gestures
    • Facial Expressions
  • Verbal Cues:
    • Tone of Voice and Volume
  • Physicians:
    • Direct and Straight-forward
  • Family:
    • Friendly and Reassuring
  • Clinical Staff:
    • Instructional and Directional
  • Patients:
    • Educational, while listening and displaying empathy

Case Scenario 2

Jennifer a 100% disabled Veteran was with her working service dog and was waiting for a pass. Someone attempted to pet her dog and she asked him to "not touch her dog, he is working". He became angry, volatile, and she was immediately cursed at, Jennifer went to the police office for assistance and was told by the police dispatcher, who was not a police officer, "it was his 5th amendment right" to curse at her. Several Police officers who returned to the office and listened to what had occurred, empathized with her and said that they would follow- up, and start the re-education process. She thanked them for their help and concern.

Providers must gather information from each customer and create a customer interaction repository. Agents or healthcare representatives then have access to all the data whenever they get to speak with the customer. By tracking and viewing the journey of the customers, an organization can anticipate their next request and act accordingly.

This process empowers the customer service representatives with contextual information before interacting with the customer. Now an agent can quickly resolve a customer's issue. Anticipating their request in advance can drastically reduce the traffic of calls that their contact centers receive without hampering their quality of service.

Using a latest contact center technology with modern features that satisfies the needs of every generation will improve and enhance customer service in healthcare, enabling providers to retain customers and increase customer loyalty.

The healthcare industry is all about ensuring maximum satisfaction and convenience to customers. According to the latest Cisco survey, 70% of customers feel delighted when doctors specifically address their queries over the telephone.6

Regular feedback from customers regarding how they feel after getting the treatment from a specific healthcare facility is also a good way to keep rapport and as well know the areas where the hospital needs to work harder. It is essential for the healthcare sector to rejuvenate its customer support service. A team of qualified customer support executives not only acts as a bridge between the customers and the hospitals but, also enhances the efficacy of the treatment while coordinating the customers course of treatments.7, 8

Today, hospitals are being opened everywhere. On an estimate, each region now has two to three hospitals or even more across every county. Therefore, these increases competition between healthcare facilities. Because of this it is more difficult for hospitals to keep a tab on their customers. Consequently, a customer service department of a hospital must walk an extra mile to keep and win the faith of its customers.

Customer Surveys3, 4, 6, 8, 9

Customer surveys provide invaluable insight into healthcare customer service. Over the past decade Social reform is taking the spotlight after several technical- changes have taken place in the healthcare industry.

A national survey called the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) started being randomly administered to patients at participating hospitals in 2006. The purpose of the survey was to accomplish the following:8,9

  • To create new incentives for hospitals to improve quality care.
  • To set a standard by which hospitals can be objectively compared.
  • To create accountability by "publicly" reporting the survey's findings.

In this survey, patients were asked to evaluate several categories that are closely tied to customer service skills. Among them are the following factors:9

  • Timely Responsiveness of hospital staff
  • Communication with nurses and doctors
  • Communication about medication and treatments administered
  • Information provided at discharge

The information gathered using HCAHPS includes one major element of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and healthcare reform efforts is the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program. This provides a financial incentive for hospitals that provide quality care to customers receiving Medicare benefits. This is essentially a way the government hopes to push higher customer care standards. Healthcare providers are having to take notice. The customer surveys give us a closer look at customer service in healthcare.6,7,8, 9

The HCAHPS includes questions aimed at the following:7, 8. 9, 10

  1. Responsiveness of Hospital Staff
  2. Nurse Communication
  3. Physician Communication
  4. Pain Management
  5. Communication about Medications
  6. Cleanliness and Quietness
  7. Discharge Information
  8. Overall Rating

Case Scenario 3

Jane was a mother whose daughter had Lupus and had passed away at 24 years of age. When asked by writer what she thought about the customer service her daughter had received she said that her daughter and she had received outstanding care.

Her daughter, Lori at all hours frequently went into the hospital to treat her Lupus. The staff from all areas knew her daughter and would go out of their way to get what ever her daughter wanted and needed in a timely manner. If a procedure was to be done the nurses and doctors would explain why it was needed and how knowing the results of the procedure or change in treatment was useful and important.

One physician spent a great deal of his personal time studying the disease and helped her personal physician. He too answered her questions and her mother's whether it dealt with new medications, their possible side effects, and if it really would help with her Lupus. Whenever she entered the hospital, she was always treated with kindness and respect.

Upon being discharged everything was explained and questions answered both to Jane and her daughter. When her daughter passed away emotional support was given to Jane and family members by her daughter's healthcare providers. She and her daughter were given the best of care and everything in her daughter's room was always well organized, accessible, and clean. Jane said if she became ill, she would go to the same hospital. They truly care about their customers!

The Federal government is putting an emphasis on customer service in healthcare. Hospitals and healthcare providers now have programs that incentivize better service, and providers are beginning to adjust their priorities. Customer Satisfaction scores affect a hospital's funding and customers referrals.9 To receive reimbursements more and more, hospitals must ensure high customer satisfaction. Staff in all areas will need to feel engaged with their jobs, and every employee must treat all customers to the best of their abilities and caliber. Eventually, it is the service motive that wins and keeps customers not just the money. Customer service surveys and improved hospital amenities are now becoming commonplace in many healthcare facilities.7,8,9,10

The gradual changes we're seeing now in healthcare providers' approach to a customer's satisfaction, were born out of a financial nudge from the government. Great customer service isn't just about the bottom- line but healthcare professionals know it is the right thing to do!

Customers with an illness or injury, positive interactions with hospital staff can go a long way in improving an otherwise unpleasant situation.

Tips to improve Customer Service

  1. Ensure sure staff members wear their visible name tags and introduce themselves to their customers on every shift.
  2. Inform customers how much a procedure will cost and be transparent about pricing.
  3. Make sure the customer knows what will happen to them and take time to explain procedures at their level of understanding and what they can expect.
  4. Communicate at the customer's level of understanding. If needed have an individual who speaks the customer's language or if hearing impaired gets someone who can interpret and sign.
  5. Instruct customers on how to go online to find important information about services provided in your healthcare facility. Inform the customer how they can schedule appointments online. Make it as easy as possible.

Good customer service extends beyond a pleasant demeanor. It has a lot to do about customer-centered care. The IOM (Institute of Medicine) defines customer-centered care as: "Providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual customer preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that customer values guide all clinical decisions."11

Social Media and Healthcare10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

The simple truth is that customers frequently use Social Media. They use it to look for information, find support, and make healthcare decisions. Combining social media and healthcare can be challenging. But the use of social media in healthcare also presents incredible new opportunities. Social media is a great platform to share important health information.

Today's empowered, tech-savvy, self-referral patients have plenty of choices when it comes to deciding on their healthcare provider. More than 80% of prospective customers use online physician reviews to choose a new provider. Another notable use of social media is to help people find common ground on critical healthcare topics.

Social Media is "Loved by Healthcare Consumers". Consumers use social media to find new treatments and advice. Providers must connect with consumers through educational content. This content can be shared to help educate others about health-related topics. Over 40 percent of consumers report that information they find on social media affects their health and wellness decisions. Another 90 percent of people 18 to 24 years old trust medical information they find on social media. This means it's more important than ever for healthcare experts to be visible online to provide this critical information.10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Mobile healthcare is expanding as consumers turn to the internet for data. Every generation, including baby boomers, are online. Forbes reported that as of January 2017, 9 percent of all Facebook users were over 55 years of age. This generation is more tech-savvy and they search for local healthcare services and use YouTube and Facebook for health-related information. Thus it is important to create marketing plans that also serve baby boomers.12, 13, 14, 15

Case Scenario 4

Charles was on vacation and sprained his right ankle. It felt broken and he decided to go to an Urgent Care Center. When he limped into the Urgent Care waiting area, he immediately went to the Receptionist who seemed overwhelmed with so many customers needing help. Without looking up she asked him what he needed and stated it would be at least 40 minutes before anyone could see him, but a nurse would come possibly sooner and she would let the nurse know that he was here in the waiting room.

After 30 minutes a nurse appeared, introduced herself, apologized for the wait. She then looked at him and led him into a room where she checked his vital signs, asked him what had happened and looked at his right ankle. She stated he would probably need an X-Ray of his right ankle to make sure it was not broken.

The doctor came shortly after and said he was sorry this had to happen on his vacation. He ordered the X-Ray and found the ankle was not broken and ordered a wrap and a support bandage. He was shown how to dress his ankle and given supplies to do so. A follow up visit was set up.

Charles got online using his phone and stated the customer service was great and the wait not so bad. He suggested that they needed more help for the receptionist during busy hours.

Social Media and Use by all Generations10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Generation X (Gen X), those born between 1965 and 1980, are also searching for health-related topics. Gen X accounts for 1.5 billion YouTube views each day. This generation is caring for children and aging parents. This means they might search for how to soothe a colicky baby, the best long-term care facilities, and so much more.

Millennials known as Generation Y (Gen Y) are sometimes referred to as "echo boomers" due to a major surge in birth rates in the 1980s and 1990s, and because millennials are often the children of the baby boomers. The characteristics of millennials vary by region and by individual, and the group experiences a variety of social and economic conditions, but they are generally marked by their coming of age in the Information Age.

This generation (Gen Y) uses urgent care facilities when ill and accesses advice online. They are likely to turn to their peers on social media or online support groups. They can get 24-hour support from others who have the same or similar experiences. This can also lead them to try new approaches to preventative healthcare.

Millennials (GenY) are focused on healthy living. However, they are also cost-conscious consumers. This combination makes them highly open to using social media to find healthcare information. In fact, 93 percent of millennials report that they don't schedule preventive health visits with their primary providers. According to a 2014 Nielsen study, millennials search for alternative medicine as a way of healthy living. They often use wellness strategies such as meditation, acupuncture, and natural remedies over pharmaceuticals.

With everyone heading to the web for health-related information, it makes sense that healthcare companies would go there too. By providing accurate and reliable information, providers can engage with consumers and improve their overall wellness.

Social Media and Online Advertising of Healthcare Facilities10, 11, 12,13,14,15

According to a recent Gartner study, healthcare service organizations will need to raise their performance standards for today's varied points of patient engagement (mobile, text, email, etc.). Many customers search Online for the facility they will go to. Social media provides an easy way to share information with consumers.

As consumers turn to the internet for data, mobile healthcare is expanding. There are over 320,000 health and fitness apps available. However, not many of them collect data on effectiveness. These apps may not cure chronic disease, but experts believe they can change behaviors. When apps are combined with a physician or counselor, customers may experience an improvement in their health.

Many users feel that having an app can help with accountability. The medical community is embracing the role social media plays in healthcare. Consequently, online advertising is the most effective way to attract new customers, acquire them, and ultimately retain them.

Social Media requires efficient internet functions. Microsoft is providing funding to telecommunications companies for broadband infrastructure projects and expertise about technological solutions, working with device manufacturers to develop better and more affordable technologies, and investing in digital skills training.17. 18

Rural Airband Initiative

This new solution, like Microsoft's Rural Airband Initiative uses gaps between TV Channels, thus it connects areas lacking service. Standard WIFI signals reach about 330 feet, but Microsoft's Rural Airband Initiative can expand over 6 miles. There are now more than 90 "Airband projects" around the world, including partnerships with 12 internet service providers in 24 U.S. states.15, 16

Case Scenario 5

Maryann was preparing to take her daughter, Tiffany to a hospital twelve hours away for surgery on her breast, because of a stage four malignancy which was recently diagnosed. She had one major worry aside from the procedure that was constantly on her mind. Her daughter was only 18 and needed to stay in the hospital to recover. The doctors said after surgery radiation and chemo treatments would be needed. There were no healthcare facilities in their rural town where she could receive the treatments.

When Maryann returned home after her daughter’s surgery, she wanted to be able to use the internet to do video chats, and be able to see and communicate daily. In the past they tried video chats during a previous hospital stay, but the internet connection on the dairy farm where they lived was much too slow.

They could talk by phone, but this had its limitations, and she could not see Tiffany's face to see if she was looking better and getting stronger after the surgery and after the radiation and chemo treatments were taking place. Her sisters and brothers also wanted to see and talk to her and share funny stories. They lived in a rural area of Oklahoma and internet connections were almost non-existent.

Maryann needed a solution and found it, on a Social Media Thread where other rural residents were posting about their connectivity issues. Someone mentioned Network Business Systems Inc., a small internet provider in the area and a partner in Microsoft's Airband Initiative, a five-year commitment to bring broadband access to 3 million people in unserved rural communities nationwide by July 2022. Maryann contacted the company, which set up an internet tower for her family on a grain tower at a nearby farm.

As Tiffany recovered from breast surgery at a hospital specializing in cancer treatments and later, as she underwent six weeks of radiation, the family was able to visit with her every day via video chat when they couldn't be there.

In this new age of "technological miracles" having access to high speed internet and working with companies to make this happen Microsoft has also brought connectivity to military Veterans. Now improvement of broadband access has provided Veterans with the ability to receive digital skills training, and telehealth services to Veterans living in rural areas.16

Summary

  • Delivering quality healthcare means providing good customer service at all levels. Customer satisfaction surveys have shown that healthcare worker attitudes, manners and amenities encountered during customers' experiences at medical facilities weigh with similar importance to treatment processes. Healthcare professionals recognize that health care, from the customer's perspective, is as much a consumer-focused service as in other service industries are.
  • Strategies to provide customers with superior customer service include the following:
    • Make sure customers are treated with courtesy and respect
    • Stay Informed
    • Never Argue or Fight with Patients
    • Simply Explain to Customers
    • Good Manners and Service Motive
    • Close Rapport with Patients
    • Clean and Dirt-Free Appearance
    • Training and Motivation
    • Easy Availability of Medicine and Medical Supplies Under One Roof
    • Quick Response and Being Alert
    • Well Behaved Doctors
    • Thank Your Customers Frequently
    • Keep your Promises
    • Keep seeing healthcare as a calling
  • Three Proactive customer service steps which will maximize customer engagement and retention at every stage of customer interaction-before, during and after the customer's visit to the hospital include:
    • Notifications via email, text message or a call about appointment confirmation, Status updates
    • Updated Educational information
    • Test report updates before the customer asks for it
  • Today customer service software is specifically designed to maximize customer service engagement by utilizing these three basic features:
    • Delivering consistent omnichannel experience
    • Providing customer service
    • Creating meaningful interactions
  • The HCAHPS started being randomly administered to customers at participating hospitals in 2006. The purpose of the survey was to accomplish the following:
    • To create new incentives for hospitals to improve quality care
    • To set a standard by which hospitals can be objectively compared
    • To create accountability by publicly reporting the survey's findings
  • In order to create four ways your healthcare providers can improve customer satisfaction in your healthcare facility you must do the following:
    • Make unscheduled rounds to all areas and look and listen to what customers are saying and note how they are reacting to staff and the amenities offered
    • Watch how physicians and staff present themselves to customers and note their language and attitudes to customers and staff
    • Observe and see what the customer sees as interaction occurs with staff, such as:
      • Gestures Made
      • Facial Expressions
      • Pace
      • Degree of Formality
      • Touch
      • Listening Ability
        • Active
        • Effective
        • Display empathy and compassion
      • Assertiveness Skills
        • Clear, specific and direct
        • Repeat until HEARD (no yelling)
        • Be proactive
        • Be respectful
    • Once you have the information needed and have read the customer and staff surveys make an action plan with administrators and leaders which should also include providing educational workshops online and in a classroom to improve personal interactions.
  • Mobile healthcare is expanding as consumers turn to the internet for data and use Social Media to look for information, find support, and make healthcare decisions related to their healthcare. Customers of all ages are tech-savvy and are self-referral customers with plenty of choices when it comes to deciding on their healthcare provider. Online physician reviews, best healthcare facility to go to and how customers were treated determine the response of customers.
  • Microsoft's Rural Airband Initiative will bring broadband connectivity to 2 million people in rural America. Microsoft will invest in digital skills training for people of all ages in these newly connected communities. Microsoft uses partnerships with the National 4-H Council to improve education, health care, and agriculture businesses using the new connectivity services. Customers and their families will be able to communicate visually, as well as vocally from their rural homesites. Information on healthcare treatments, facilities, diseases, etc. are available along with better access to social media on a regular basis.
  • The medical community nationwide is embracing the role social media plays in healthcare. Consequently, Online advertising is the most effective way to attract new customers, acquire them, and ultimately retain them. Customers can see which healthcare facilities are available, locations, their specialties, and their online reputations and amenities offered.
  • Online training programs and updated software can improve the customer services and knowledge all healthcare providers could utilize with all their customers. Leaders and healthcare managers and administrators can improve their marketing strategies and check online to see what their customers and employees are sharing and saying about the treatment and care they received at their facility. Today, customer service software is specifically designed to maximize customer service engagement by utilizing these three basic features:
    • Delivering consistent omnichannel experience
    • Providing proactive customer service
    • Creating meaningful interactions

Conclusion

Improving customer service for healthcare professionals is an ongoing process with many avenues for success and with new futuristic ways to connect and constantly educate the healthcare community and the customers they serve.

It is vital that all healthcare providers communicate effectively, take complaints and concerns seriously, put systems in place that keep healthcare providers safe and help customers feel valued and important. Providing great service to customers will make them feel like you are all on the same team, customers will be more apt to send referrals, and they will be more willing to make sure you are paid for the time and efforts you have spent on their care.

When challenges occur, it is up to the healthcare professionals to use their knowledge, skills and experiences to be creative and at times implement and change systems and policies that will improve customer services, and encourage all staff to work as a cohesive team. To be the best of the best always get feedback by asking: What went well? What did not go well? How can "we" improve?

Select one of the following methods to complete this course.

Take TestPass an exam testing your knowledge of the course material.
OR
Reflect on Practice ImpactDescribe how this course will impact your practice.   (No Test)

References

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  3. Accenture 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey U.S. Results, Consumer Survey on Digital Health/Accenture Accessed on February 12, 2020. Visit Source.
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