Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How to Achieve Patient Satisfaction

After reading this blog for a while the newbie has probably realized that there is a lot to healthcare. Like any business there are many regulations, quirks, and challenges. For this post, I wanted to talk about a new perspective in healthcare – the patient’s perspective.
In every business, regardless of industry, the customer is the most important part of the business. Shareholders may like to think they are… but really, there would be no shareholders without customers. The only difference in healthcare is that we call the customers patients. As business people, everyone in healthcare is responsible for customer satisfaction and that can be a challenge more in healthcare than other industries because our customers are often sick.

When someone is sick they can’t think right, they are frightened and confused. Other industries don’t have to worry about that quite so much. That is what makes healthcare so special. It also makes our job, as people in healthcare, so important. We have a huge responsibility for customer (patient) satisfaction.

My first job in healthcare was working for a doctor who took care of the elderly. For a 18 year old kid, that was a challenge. I had no idea what compassion was. My mother helped to change that (thanks Mom). After listening to my complaints about the annoying patients and how they were never happy with anything, my mother finally had it with me. One day she handed me a poem that changed my whole outlook and made me a better person – not just a better healthcare worker.

Since that time, I have had the chance to mentor many young people who had plans to work as doctors, nurses, and other types of healthcare providers. I have insisted that each one of them read this poem. When you understand the patient’s perspective – you will excel in ‘customer’ satisfaction but, not just because you have to… you will want to..
Take just a minute and read the poem at the following link. It was written by an elderly woman in Scotland and discovered by the nurses after her death:  

Each person who has read this poem at my recommendation reported the same thing – tears. Don’t ever forget this poem! I haven’t! As workers in the healthcare industry, compassion is our number one resource. You need to look at each patient with an attitude of ‘there but for the grace of God go I’. Elderly, in particular, need us to help them. Moreover that, they deserve our help and respect. Do you enjoy the freedoms that this country has to offer? Do you like where technology has brought us? Thank an elderly person who fought for it or laid the foundations for what you have today. 

So besides a thank you and a nice warm hug, what can we healthcare workers do to help? That is simple, listen to their concerns and know what resources are available to help them. Also, understand that sickness and/or pain cause fear and fear makes people confused and forgetful. Here are some simple things you can do to be a good healthcare worker:
  • Speak to your patients clearly – explain things in detail without too much technical jargon
  • Don’t get annoyed when they don’t understand, explain it a different way
  • Be reassuring and kind
  • Anticipate their questions and answer them before the patient has to ask
  • Write things down for the patient – don’t expect that they will remember
  • Offer to explain things to the patient’s family. Don’t go breaking any HIPAA laws telling anyone that is not authorized to know.. but recommend to the patient that it would help to involve family.
  • Don’t patronize – but take the time to explain everything
  • Don’t rush patients – no other task is more important.
  • Know what resources are available and be ready to make a recommendation

With regard to the last point – know patient resources – there are several resources every healthcare worker should know about. To follow are some links to patient resources. Keep these handy… and look for more. Remember it is all about customer (patient) satisfaction (compassion):  The US Department of Health and Human Services has a ton of resources for illness and social well being  Health Finder is a fabulous resource to find available social services and health resources in your state.  Medicare’s website is a great resource for patients to understand Medicare. The site also offers comparisons of different healthcare providers such as their resources for Nursing Home Compare and Home Health Compare. Child offers a state-by-state listing of child services The Healthcare Survival Guide has resources listed to help the patient with everything from addiction to women’s services. The Mayo Clinic provides information to help patients better understand their condition or disease. Stop Bullying offers a ton of useful information about bullying, how to deal with it, and how to stop it. Needy Meds offers help to patients who cannot afford medications. This site offers multiple options including links to state funded programs and even advocacy programs to help the patient obtain low cost or free medications directly from the pharmaceutical company (IMPORTANT NOTE: most people working in a doctor’s office know the pharmaceutical reps. If you have a patient who cannot afford medication – ASK  the pharmaceutical sales representative for help. Most pharmaceutical companies have special programs for patients to obtain drugs are little or no cost!)  The Hotline offers help for victims of domestic violence

There are thousands and thousands of other resources to be found on the internet. If you want to be a good healthcare worker – know the resources what are available. Remember, some patient’s will not have computer access so you must be prepared to present printed information to the patient. 


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