This blog post was written by Megan O’Donnell, Manager of RMS Healthcare at Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS). Her white paper on the topic was based on the HelpScout.net article titled “15 Customer Service Skills that Every Employee Needs”, written by Gregory Ciotti. To request the full white paper on the topic with all 15 skills contact Megan at 1-866-567-5422 or email at MeganO@RMSresults.com.
Healthcare is probably the last, or at least the latest, industry to embrace the fact that patients (who are indeed customers) look for more than just excellent medical care when they seek out a healthcare provider. There is an increasing expectation of excellence in service, both from the medical professionals and non-clinical staff. Patients, who now have more financial responsibility for their own healthcare than ever before, have increased expectations from their interactions and relationships with everyone they encounter in the healthcare setting. So customer service skills are essential for everyone from the front desk clerk to the physician. Here are 15 patient customer service skills that every employee needs in healthcare. This blog post covers skills 1 to 3:
- Patience – As a survey vendor for many healthcare provider industry segments measuring the patient experience (the 14th largest in the country for 20131), RMS Healthcare sees a lot of comments from patients indicating they feel rushed through visits or interactions with their healthcare providers. A patient is a customer who is often only seen when he or she is in crisis, or has an ongoing health concern, so his or her frustration level is already heightened. Whether you are interacting with a patient on the phone, in an office, clinical setting, bedside in a hospital, or other facility, it is important to take the time to make sure you are demonstrating patience with the patient, giving each person time to express all concerns and ask questions.
- Attentiveness – Whether interacting with a patient one-on-one or reviewing feedback from patient surveys, the point is you really need to listen to what is being said. Often patients may not be able to explain their symptoms, condition, or level of pain in medical terms, so you have to listen for clues about what might really be going on with the patient. To think of it from another industry perspective, have you ever tried to explain the weird noise your car is making to your mechanic? Or told them that your brakes feel “mushy” or there is a “wobble” in the steering wheel? The mechanic must actively listen to what you are saying to know where to start looking to diagnose the problem. And when your patient experience survey results tell you that patients are less than completely satisfied with a specific aspect of their experience, you need to take an in-depth look at what is impacting their patient experience and look for ways to improve it.
- Clear Communication Skills – As important as listening was in the last point, the way you communicate to a patient is equally important. When you ask patients “How are you feeling?” or “Have there been any changes since I saw you last?” are they really giving you an answer that will help you assess their overall health? Vague or general questions may not uncover all of the things you need to know as a healthcare provider. As a patient is recovering from surgery in the hospital a question of “Are you eating?” may only solicit a yes or no response, but the question “What did you have to eat today?” may give you a better sense of whether the patient has regained his or her normal appetite post surgery. Similarly, when you need the patient to take some action or follow a particular protocol you need to explain your expectations clearly so that the patient understands exactly what to do. We know from correlation analyses done on CAHPS® survey results that good communication skills are the biggest predictor of overall satisfaction with the patient experience.
Megan has over 20 years of planning, research, and management experience in the healthcare arena. For more information on RMS Healthcare visit our website by clicking here or visit our healthcare blog posts by clicking here.