Every interaction a patient has with a healthcare employee — from a front desk receptionist or a doctor—impacts patient care. But implementing customer service into healthcare can be difficult because of how automized the process of admitting and discharging patients is becoming.
The importance of customer service in healthcare
Patient care should be the top priority for healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, many things get in the way of prioritizing customer service, like caring for a surplus of patients while understaffed. But not giving patients the care they crave can have dire outcomes.
Patients who don’t receive the care they need are unlikely to return to your office, especially if they’re new. It’s similar to shopping at a retail store—if you have a poor customer experience, you’ll take your business elsewhere.
Satisfied patients will return to the same office if they have a consistently good experience with the staff. Just like how customers can leave poor reviews for retail brands, patients can give your practice a poor rating, lowering your public reviews and authority.
It’s understandable why patients won’t return to an office they don’t trust, as trust is the crux of healthcare. For many patients, their health is personal and the source of a great deal of anxiety. Patients need to develop trust with you before they can receive the treatment they need. If you don’t build that trust with your patients, you’re risking losing them forever.
Challenges of providing customer service in healthcare
It can be challenging to provide good customer service when you see many patients daily. As a healthcare employee, you’re busy admitting patients and trying to discharge them as soon as possible while documenting their care for their records. Not only that, but patients often see a handful of healthcare workers during their visit, as shifts change and healthcare professionals use notes to catch up on a patient’s needs.
So, how do you provide exceptional (and unified) customer care while handling multiple patients simultaneously?
8 ways to provide better customer services in healthcare
1. Properly document patient notes
Notetaking is a foundational skill for most, if not all, healthcare employees, as it’s a large part of their job. But it’s easy to mess up that foundation if you start hacking your notes to save time when you feel overwhelmed from a busy schedule. Or if you never set the foundation down in the first place.
Healthcare professionals operate as a team, which requires communication with numerous touchpoints with other healthcare employees. If you don’t take the time to document your notes correctly, then you risk miscommunicating with your coworkers about a patient’s needs, which can drastically impact their care.
Imagine how frustrating it is to be a patient who constantly reshares their medical history and pain to the same caretakers because of inadequate notetaking. That’s why taking the time to type up notes properly will save you and your patients time and effort in the future.
2. Conduct regular staff training
It can be hard to manage many healthcare workers, primarily when operating in different roles and situations. Conducting regular staff training can help your team rebuild their foundational skills while ensuring that everyone is on the same page for protocols and best practices.
Your patients have a more unified experience, which automatically boosts their patient experience. Consistency is a significant factor for a good experience.
3. Put yourself in the patient’s shoes
Over the years, customer service expectations have risen drastically, not just in the consumer space. Like Oscar Health or Forward, newer healthcare companies rethink how healthcare providers interact with their patients by considering user experience in their brand and technology initiatives.
When you understand your patient personally, you’re better able to care for them and provide them with everything they need to feel safe and comfortable walking into your business.
4. Implement the right software
Implementing the right software is the best way to start if you’re looking for better ways to care for your patients. Why? Because improving the tools will make your teams and workflows operate more efficiently and smoothly. In turn, you’ll be able to provide a better experience for your patients.
But what’s the “right” software when it comes to your customer service? It’s any software or tool that will help you automate your processes or communicate with patients better. That can include the best patient intake tools or communication tools. When choosing a communication tool, make sure you’re using whatever your patients use. For example, if your patients prefer using email or texting to phone calls, then be sure to fulfill those software needs.
5. Make patient records easily accessible
When looking for software, ensure that your patient portal has a good user experience. Accessing patient portals to view healthcare records, lab results, or miscellaneous information shouldn’t be a chore for your patients. That’s because a lousy patient portal can directly impact how they feel about your healthcare services.
When designing your portal, some things to keep in mind are to make sure it’s easy to search online, has a clear and direct top navigation, a simple design, the ability to create an account for future use, and a support chat or number with 24/7 assistance.
6. Improve billing and collections
One of the most significant stressors for patients is the aftermath of receiving care—the bill. But the total cost of billing is not the only frustrating part of the equation. Trying to figure out how much you owe and how to pay it can be an entirely different challenge.
That’s because most medical bills aren’t given right out the door. It takes time for healthcare facilities to handle payments with insurance before patients receive the final number they owe.
You can lessen the stress for your patients by improving the way you send bills and collect payments from them. A smooth transactional process is a key to successful customer service, even in the healthcare industry.
One way to make the medical billing and collections process easier is by directly communicating with patients on channels they use, such as business texting or email.
Business texting is a gentle and direct way to let patients know how much they owe, and MMS and link-sharing also make it easy to collect payments via text. Similarly, you can use email to follow up with patients on their bills or go old-school and send an invoice in the mail. You can ask your patients how they prefer to receive their bills and document the information in their notes.
7. Schedule appointments
One of the best things you can do when it comes to customer service in healthcare is to anticipate the needs of your patients—and one way to do that is to be proactive with your patients by scheduling their appointments for them. Scheduling appointments can be difficult for patients who suffer from phone anxiety or struggle to keep up with their calendars.
You can make appointment scheduling even easier for your patients by implementing patient texting to automate appointment scheduling while remaining personal in your messaging. Fifty-five percent of the respondents to a Twilio survey said they would like to reply to reminder alerts to confirm, ask for details, reschedule, or cancel an appointment.
Not only does business texting help your patients schedule their appointments with less friction, but sending appointment reminders to customers through SMS can reduce missed appointments by up to 26 percent.
8. Continue care after patient discharge
Patient care doesn’t end when your patients walk out the door. For most patients, post-visit care is crucial, as they’re uneasy about being away from the direct supervision of a doctor or nurse. That’s why continuing patient care after discharging a patient is crucial to providing exceptional customer service. There are numerous ways you can continue to provide post-care.
For starters, you can use a health app to ask patients to log their daily health stats (like blood pressure, glucose level, etc.) These apps make it easy for nurses to check in on patients without contacting them directly, though most apps allow patients and nurses to contact each other if needed.
Examples of excellent customer service in the healthcare industry
The best way to experience customer service is to see it in action. If you’re looking to lead the healthcare industry by example, then here are some actionable things you can do to provide superb customer service.
- Throw patients celebratory events for their birthdays or significant life events
- Connect patients with mental health providers
- Be empathetic with patient’s concerns
- Comfort family members or visitors
- Educate family members or caregivers on the patient’s health concerns
- Don’t rush through a visit when you’re with a patient
- Give patients a 24/7 hotline for non-emergency support
- Crack a joke or share a personal conversation with patients
- Build a user-friendly mobile app or integrate your hospital systems with an existing one
The bottom line: Exceptional customer service can save lives
It may sound extreme, but the level of customer service you provide patients can directly impact their willingness to visit a healthcare professional for minor or even severe problems. By incorporating customer care into every touchpoint of your patient’s visit, you’re building a trustworthy relationship with them that will encourage them to come back to you.