Healthcare Lagging Behind in Customer Experience

As it appeared in the Daily Nation on March 26th 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu

A visit to the healthcare provider is often not a very exciting undertaking. Patients and their family members are in an uneasy state during some visits. Many healthcare professionals that we interact with during such visits do not make it any better. Most of us have come across cold doctors, harsh nurses, insensitive dentists, slack laboratory assistants, unhelpful pharmacists among other not so caring healthcare professionals. Experience with such staff makes patients feel worse about their medical condition. Why is customer experience in healthcare lagging behind? Why are our experiences in hospitals, doctors’ and dentists’ clinics, laboratories, pharmacies and with other health services providers frequently below the expected?

Two to three decades ago, healthcare services in Kenya were mainly public. Growing up, our main option was public healthcare facilities. Locally, we had a renowned health centre for outpatient services. If one needed specialized care or inpatient services there was the general hospital and a few missionary hospitals not too far away. This may not have been the case for every Kenyan. Today, it is different; healthcare services both public and private in most counties are a stone throw away and some are next to each other. The number of healthcare services providers has soared. Most patients are spoiled for choice. Despite this, most of our local healthcare services both public and private do not seem to have improved their experience considerably. The healthcare industry seems to be lagging behind in its focus on the customer. Kudos to the few providing an exceptional experience!

In the public sector, healthcare services continue to face a myriad of inadequacies. There have been frequent labour unrests, lack of supplies, poorly maintained facilities and often an agonizing experience. As a result, most Kenyans continue to experience sloppy public healthcare services. The customer experience in the public healthcare certainly needs improvement. The private healthcare providers though better are not leaders on matters customer experience. Some private healthcare providers seem not to view their patients as valued customers. Why should a healthcare professional add more pain to an already ailing person? Could it be because most patients do not pay directly but through insurance? Could it be that the industry is yet to appreciate the need to focus on the end-to-end customer journey?

Ideally, healthcare professionals should be known for empathy. Empathy means showing care, compassion and understanding in equal measure to both the patients and their families. This is key because it can be very devastating to be in poor health. Healthcare professionals need to be more empathetic. Besides empathy, smart healthcare providers ought to identify possible pain points on their customers’ journey and minimize the pain. There is need to improve the ability to make the right diagnoses, reduce wait time, eliminate unnecessary processes, keep patients and their families informed, digitize processes to make the experience seamless, capture, store and retrieve customer data more proficiently, offer nursing care with a difference among other possible interventions. Are our healthcare providers ready to make customer experiences less painful or will healthcare continue to lag behind? Only time will tell!

Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy

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