As it appeared in the Daily Nation on April 19th 2016
Some of the most customer unfriendly places I have visited are health care facilities. Starting with doctors’ clinics to laboratory and imaging services providers to hospitals. The staff and medical professionals in most such facilities seem to care less about patient experience. On one hand doctors keep customers waiting and use medical jargon while on the other hand reception staff keep customers in the dark and even ignore simple hellos and goodbyes. I am certain that most of us have a story to share. Whilst there are a few facilities that are doing exceptionally well, the health care sector could be said to be lagging behind in building a reputation based on outstanding customer experiences.
We all know that the top priority of a patient is to get well. In fact we all dislike being guests of medical facilities. Using inpatient services is nowhere close to a holiday at our favourite resort or a visit to the park. However, the experiences we go through as patients in the process of treatment are important. These experiences at every point of interaction whether as an outpatient or inpatient customer contribute greatly to the customers’ happiness. However, most staff at medical facilities do not seem to realize that patients are customers first. Indeed they are a special kind of customers who need much more compassion and empathy than guests in a hotel.
I recently took my mom for laboratory tests at a leading diagnostic centre. I watched in awe as one particular staff rushed through the process almost knocking others on her way down. In her rush she could not even find a vein in the usual place and had to draw blood from the back of the hand. I later had a conversation with the receptionist and learnt that the staff was rushing to go sit for her exams. Whilst the quality of services in most health care facilities has improved over the years, there is still much more to be done. I had the opportunity of visiting one of the top hospitals in the US the Washington University Medical Center in St Louis. I was very impressed by the interaction that a team of orthopedic surgeons had with my nephew and I wondered why our health care facilities are not learning from the best.
When I am training staff working at medical facilities the need to view patients as special customers is always centre stage. I have closely followed though Cleveland Clinic customer experience initiative and often use them as case studies. James Merlino the Chief Experience Officer at Cleveland Clinic in an online article says that “focus on the patient should be the most important thing in healthcare—and it can be a real differentiator for hospitals” he goes on to add that “many in the healthcare industry are already recognizing the financial benefits of focusing on an excellent patient experience”. If our health care facilities would focus a little more on patient experience I am confident that it would even contribute to a healthier and happier nation.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy