e-Learning V/s Classroom Learning

Improving the customer experience

Customers are not just patients & their families, it's also your internal customers that matter

By: Sumedha Sen

In my previous article, I had said that if you pay Rs. 100 to the hospital, how much is for the medical service and how much is it for the "best customer experience"?
On the other hand, same amount if paid to say a hotel, how much is for the infrastructure and how much for the "best customer experience"?
Let's do some percentage allocations here with 90% & 10%.
Hospital: 90% for medical service (that's what the patient has come for) and 10% for the 'sheer experience'.
Hotel: 90% for 'sheer experience' (that's what the customer has come for) and 10% for the internal & external ambience.
We can combine the ratio in many different ways, but we shall always get the 'customer' paying much more to the hotel for the "experience" and expects the same from the hospital at a lesser cost. Also, let's remember that the hotel has a star level and service outputs accordingly. Hospital's medical service also needs to be at a highest level at all times. While healthcare finds a place in the service and hospitality industry, it is not only very diverse but the 'customers' too are different.
So how can we improve the 'customer experience' in a hospital environment? In my capacity, I would differentiate the 'customers' in the hospital. One would be the patients who are actually taking the medical services. Other are the patients' family who spends many hours in the hospital in their sound and healthy minds; often doing nothing while sitting in the hospital!
People attending to the patients are majorly medical & para medical staff. While people attending to the families are the non- medical administrative staff, with nurses being the interconnection between the two.
Having said that, now can we see that the entire non-medical admin staff consists of persons who cater to that something, which gives the "better customer experience?" This is a tough lot who has all the sensorium's intact and working. And the hospital gets just 10% of the billing in looking after them, and they are more than 5 times in number than the patients admitted. We cannot change this basic presumption. Keeping that in mind, here's how we can try to improve some basic customer experience.

Industry Trends

In many ways, along with being a part of the organization, the clinician is also a very important customer. His needs in terms of administrative and technology support have to be understood

Consider 2 types of people taking service

(1) The patient (2) The patient's family members.
The patient had a normal life before being admitted and will hopefully go back to one. As an organization, we should look beyond the patient to the environment they come from, so as to understand them in a broader context.
Giving health services require nutrition, social & emotional touch points and other nonclinical elements. With this deeper understanding of the patient, a health system can segment patients by categories ¬– such as those requiring post discharge care – and engage them to this extended service in their own homes. For example, the health system can provide locally delivered home care. Also, invite them to the hospital to provide health counseling for their family and members of the community where they live. In such sessions, the patient is made to feel a part of the organisation and is free to give their advice on improving the "customer experience".
I strongly believe that there is a 3rd most important customer who we tend to sometime overlook.
(3) The Doctor. In many ways, along with being a part of the organization, the clinician is also a very important customer. His needs in terms of administrative and technology support have to be understood. I am not going into the nitty-gritties but all good administrators will know what I mean.

Data management & timely actions taken

The better customer service organisations capture real-time data. Having had the experience of working in one of the very well-known hotel chains, I have seen how it was a mandate to attempt in addressing those needs in real time. This should be applied to every hospital user's touch point: from as important as patient information to the family to greeting the customer, upkeep of patient's room, quality of food, OPD waiting time and so on.
In most instances, the capabilities to track these variables exist at some level within the hospital's MIS, but it is that additional basic management that is required to be actively responsive in real time, in the same way the rest of the hospitality and service industries do. To achieve this, there can be no hierarchy in the system but a seamless approach in collection of data and its analysis. There is no given turnaround time. Response time is instant!

One step ahead of the customer

In order to be ahead of the three categories of customers, the healthcare providers have to proactively interact with them at every touch-point. Just like my online retail store, which constantly reminds me what I have forgotten to order based on previous ordering list.
Like, reminding a patient to order for medicines, book an appointment with the doctor as per prescription and simultaneously remind the doctor too. These are very basic examples, which I see as opportunities to be ahead of the customer. Technology has been available since a long time to track these down. It's no rocket science. It is the urge to be proactive.

Keeping the staff happy

The goal post is providing the ultimate customer experience. It is this challenging post, which is being shifted higher and higher with the competition. The best and sometimes I feel the only way to achieve this constant never-ending race is to take pride in your staff that are running this race. Watch the F1 race; see how the driver maneuvers his racing car to the finishing line.
The work of the CEO is more complex than this. This F1 driver on the hospital track has to maneuver 3 types of racing cars at the same time.
Although, I was asked at one time, "what work do you do, besides attending meetings and signing cheques"? The above and below work is what I used to do.
Health care providers must shift their thinking toward treating the staff - the medics; the para medics and the admin – all as customers. They have to start by giving them the best customer experience.
This is the thinking of a good healthcare provider in a value-based global care. It's time for the rest of the industry to do the same. Agree?


About the author

Sumedha Sen is in the healthcare genre since the 1980s, which makes her belong to the pioneering group of the healthcare industry makers. A major customer care-oriented person, best known for start-ups & restructuring. She began with Wockhardt, retired from Fortis, and also has been a Director at HOSMAC. Currently, she is a consultant in the capacity of advisor/mentor to healthcare companies.