Recognizing the Importance of Customer Service Skills in Healthcare

Customer Service in HealthcareCustomer service may not seem like a top priority when it comes to bustling emergency rooms or hospitals. But it is certainly becoming more important in the wake of the recent healthcare reform.  If you consider yourself a customer service extraordinaire and have a desire to help others, the healthcare industry is seeking employees like you!

Take some time to familiarize yourself with the events that led to this new emphasis on customer service skills in healthcare.

Patient surveys shake things up

Social reform is taking the spotlight after several technical changes have taken place in the healthcare industry over the past decade. A national survey called the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) started being randomly administered to inpatients at participating hospitals in 2006.

The purpose of the survey was simple:

  • To set a precedent by which hospitals can be objectively compared
  • To create new incentives for hospitals to improve quality care
  • To create accountability by publically reporting the survey’s findings

 

More recently, the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program, was established by the Affordable Care Act and launched in 2010. Similar to the HCAHPS, this program randomly surveys patients and rewards acute-care hospitals with monetary incentives based on quality of care they provide to people with Medicare.

Customer service in healthcare

The fact that the federal government is putting an emphasis on customer service in healthcare is important. But what’s arguably more important is that customer service has become top of mind for healthcare providers and business professionals.

Take a moment to see what these doctors, nurses and business consultants have to say when we asked them questions about how important customer service is in healthcare today.

How important are customer service skills in healthcare?

Hospitals are now joining the ranks of countless businesses that have had to re-think their customer service standards. Just as a coffee shop lacking in this area will risk bad reviews, diminishing customers and revenue, a hospital may have to face a dent in their bottom line if customer service skills are not up to par.

“Upon discharge, patients are asked to complete a survey of questions about their hospital stay, many of which focus on their interactions with care-givers,” says Matthew J Miller, president of Brainspires Inc. “Negative experiences with hospital staff, anywhere at any time, can result in big financial losses for a hospital.”

And yet, great customer service isn’t just about the bottom line. “It is the right thing to do,” says Kiki Orski, a former-RN who is committed to improving the patient experience. For patients dealing with an illness or injury, positive interactions with hospital staff can go a long way in improving an otherwise unpleasant situation.

How much is customer service emphasized in healthcare?

Though some argue it is not emphasized enough, the emphasis on customer service is surely growing. If you are seriously considering a career in healthcare, don’t plan on coming to work in your crabby pants (or scrubs!)

“From a hospital president on down the chain of command, all staff are encouraged to provide proactive and positive interaction with hospital visitors, including patients and anyone else roaming the halls,” Miller says.

Michael G. Cassatly, DMD is among those who think customer service is still not stressed enough in the medical world. However, with those institutions and professionals who have decided to emphasize and improve upon their customer service, he has definitely seen rewards.

 “It has resulted in fantastic results not only in the bottom line, but also increased practitioner career satisfaction and decreased staff turnover,” Cassatly explains.

Do health centers have customer service training?

“Because of VBP, hospitals cannot afford to ignore customer service,” Miller says.

Some institutions are diving in head first, hiring consultants or hosting professional training events to vamp up their staff’s customer service skills. Not all institutions are there yet, though it’s likely with the increasing importance that improving this skillset will become an investment for most institutions in the future.

Does prior customer experience help?

At times, it may seem that the only experience that translates into the healthcare industry is some sort of medical experience. That’s just not true. Anyone who has learned the art of achieving excellent customer service or client’s trust has honed a skill that is now coveted in the medical community.

Everyone wants to be treated with respect, to be fully informed and to receive services from excellent employees—regardless of industry, Orski says. She explains that excellent service combined with exceptional clinical skills help build trust between provider and the patient. Trusting patients are more likely to comply with treatment plans, which results in better patient outcomes.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Orski adds.

Do you have what it takes?

You’re now aware of the importance of customer service skills in the healthcare industry.  You have the people skills the medical industry is seeking, so why not dig deeper to find your dream career in healthcare? Check out these entry-level healthcare jobs employers want to fill now!

 

*This article was originally published in September 2012. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2014-15.  

External links provided on Rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Megan is a freelance writer for Collegis Education who researches and writes content for Rasmussen College designed to engage and intrigue current and potential students.

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