Good Customer Service Practices for Nurses
What Is Customer Service in Health Care?
Customer service is the provision of a service to a customer. As this applies to Healthcare, the customers are the patients, their families, and the communities that are served. The service provided is health maintanence. Millions of people access healthcare each week. Whether it be routine exams, urgent care, emergency room care, lab work, radiology, surgeries... The list goes on. Healthcare is one of the largest businesses in existence, impacting millions worldwide.
In the United States of America, the healthcare system is set up so that patients have the right and ability to choose their provider and choose where they receive care. With patients having such autonomy, hospitals and practices must provide good customer service in order to compete for patients. What patient would choose to go to a doctor who is know to be rude, unprofessional, inattentive, and always seems to be in a rush? What patient would choose to seek care at a facility with the reputation of being dirty, having long waits, or poor outcomes and reviews?
Customer satisfaction measures what people think or how they feel about the services they were provided. In hospitals, patients receive surveys to measure their perspective of the services provided. A common survey is HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Services). This survey collects objective data that enables comparisons to be made amongst hospitals across the country.
Press Ganey is a nationally recognized consulting firm that surveys patients about their Hospital experience. This allows hospitals to identify not only areas they thrive in, but also areas in need of improvement.
When are you more likely to fill out the Hospital survey?
What Patients Want
According to surveys: What are some of the most important things patients look for in order to give hospitals high satisfaction scores?
- Courtesy when being cared for
- Information and Explanations
- Care in a timely manner
Patients and families tend to spread the word about their negative experiences more often than their positive ones. Common complaints are:
- The staff was rude
- The hospital was dirty
- I had to wait a long time to be seen
- The nurses don't respond quickly to the call bells
- It took too long for me to get my pain medication
- The nurses didn't explain things to me
- I didn't know what was going on and was scared
Try asking someone why they chose a particular doctor or facility, or ask for a recommendation on where to go. Only then do you hear some of the compliments or positives of a doctor, facility, or practice.
Customer Service: The Role of the Nurse
Nurses play an important customer service role for hospitals, doctors offices and other medical facilities. Nurses are the ones with the most frequent, direct patient interaction. They act as a liaisons between Doctor's and patients and leave lasting impressions. Providing excellent customer service to patients will increase customer satisfaction. In recent years, hospitals have begun to focus on this aspect in Healthcare and have implemented training programs for their employees. Sometimes employees are sent to attend Customer Service Training Programs, like the ones put out by Disney. More commonly there are a series of in house training seminars on Customer Service Excillence.
What can nurses do to provide excellent customer service to their patients?
Be personable and connect with patients:
- Use touch when appropriate
- Make eye contact
- Do not rush interactions with patients
- Acknowledge that you are understanding the patients desires and concerns by summarizing and stating them back to the patient and verifying that you both are on the same page
Use appropriate language:
- Discuss medical information and communicate using language that is easily understood by the patient
- For example: If a patient has a fourth grade reading level do not use every big word and medical term possible when discussing medical information
- Something as simple as asking you patient how they would like to be addressed can make all the difference
Care, Compassion, and Communication...
Show that you care:
- Ask patients if they have any questions or concerns
- Take the time to listen to any questions or concerns that the patient may have
- Show empathy and acknowledge their issues
- Address their issues and keep them informed on actions being taken
Involve patients in their care:
- Give patients choices whenever possible
- Take their preferences into consideration and formulate a plan together
- Be knowledgable and considerate of the cultural, social or economic factors that influence their care, decision making, and interation with the healthcare team
Providing exceptional customer service is the responsibility of everyone in a heathcare setting. Whether you are a volunteer, admitting clerk, receptionist, security, guard, nurse, doctor, lab technician, environmental service worker, or in dietary; customer service begins as soon as a patient enters the facility. First impressions matter and something as simple as greeting a patient or family member with a smile can leave a good impression of the interaction and experience. If your facility does not have a customer service training program in place, you can make this your mission. Speak to management and educators about getting a program started. You can implement a change that positively impacts the life of millions.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Amanda S