Customer Service in Healthcare | Importance & 10 Tips

Healthcare is an industry with a complex regulatory landscape. Different cultural norms and laws governing things like data storage and customer interaction can make it difficult for healthcare support staff to know what is expected of them.

The patient’s experience with the healthcare system plays an important role in their care. Implementing customer service into healthcare can be difficult, however, due to the increasing automation of admitting and discharge processes.

 

Customer Service in Healthcare

 

Healthcare is an industry that depends on customer service. Good quality of care is achieved through positive interactions between staff and patients on a daily basis. All healthcare company employees should remember that they may also act as customer service representatives. This means that their daily activities should be focused on providing quality care to patients.

Excellent customer service in the healthcare industry is one that treats patients with the utmost respect and care. Excellent customer service starts with taking a patient-centric perspective. This quality of care is achieved when patients are not considered customers but people that your company is meant to help.

 

Customer Service in Healthcare

Nurse measuring blood pressure of senior woman at home. Smiling to each other.

 

Why is  customer service in the healthcare industry important

The customer service role is very important in any industry, but it is even more important in the healthcare sector for the following reasons.

The quality of care is set by the customer service experience.

Even if you have the most skilled physicians and experienced nurses on your staff, providing high-quality patient experiences is essential to be recognized as an outstanding healthcare provider.

Healthcare companies should focus on developing long-term relationships with patients rather than treating each interaction as a transaction.

Happy patients are more likely to return to the same healthcare providers, clinics, and facilities for all their healthcare
Healthcare companies with happy patients are also highly likely to receive recommendations from friends, family members, and co-workers. Doctor-patient relationships are some of the best examples of customer loyalty in any industry and can be very strong. The reputation of your company is developed through the quality of medical customer service which will be critical in determining patient satisfaction and if they would seek your services in the future.

 

Wrong data can lead to life-threatening mistakes:

The healthcare industry is heavily reliant on accurate patient data to make diagnostic and treatment recommendations. However, errors, incomplete records, and staff’s inability to access needed data can severely impact the quality of care – even potentially leading to life-threatening mistakes. The first line of defense against costly mistakes is customer service systems and processes that are thorough and executed by well-trained staff.

 

Poor customer service is an indicator of bigger problems:

Customer service is often an indicator of underlying organizational issues. Excellent customer service usually indicates robust and refined processes and systems. Poor customer service may indicate process or system problems. This not only impacts patient care but also affects the cost of operations.

Why customer service is important for patients

Healthcare services are typically sought out when an individual is not feeling well. This situation is very stressful when someone seeks health care for his health condition or that of a friend or family member. Patients are often worried about their health and financial issues. Healthcare companies and individual providers can offer help and guidance during these difficult times.

Patients want to be treated with care and compassion by healthcare professionals. They want to feel like their needs and well-being are a priority which is demonstrated during every interaction.

What patients expect from healthcare customer service

Patients expect a thorough understanding of their individual needs and the best ways to meet them. This relationship between a patient and a healthcare company is often the longest engagement a patient will have with any business. So developing and nurturing this relationship according to the patient’s expectations is essential.

Patients generally expect a healthcare facility to provide quality medical care, a comfortable and safe environment, caring and empathetic staff, well-maintained patient records, respect for their data privacy, and efficient processes that minimize wasted time.
To provide an excellent patient experience, every healthcare worker must understand and accept their role in delivering great customer service. Excellent medical customer service begins with taking a patient-centered perspective – viewing them as individuals with unique needs and preferences. By focusing on providing personalized, compassionate care, healthcare workers can ensure that each patient feels valued and respected. The scheduling staff, physicians, nurses, and billing staff all have critical roles in the healthcare company.

Healthcare companies can ensure that their staff is providing excellent customer service that meets customer expectations by having accurate and complete patient information, providing access to the right medical records, and streamlining and integrating healthcare data across systems.

Ways to deliver great customer service in healthcare

Seeking healthcare services can be a stressful experience, so it’s important to make the process as smooth as possible. Use the five tips below to improve your customer service and create better outcomes for everyone involved.

1. Develop clear procedures for handling sensitive information.

Privacy is a key concern in healthcare. Most countries have laws governing how health-related information can be stored and shared, such as HIPAA in the U.S. It is important to develop clear procedures for handling sensitive information in order to comply with these laws and protect patients’ privacy.

Since compliance with privacy laws is essential for agents, it is important to emphasize these laws during the onboarding process. The first step is to provide dedicated training on these laws.

It is important to have accessible documentation that covers different scenarios an agent might face, and how to handle each situation related to privacy.

Privacy compliance checklists are an effective way for agents to learn and follow protocols. It is important to make the checklists comprehensive and straightforward; this is not the time for ambiguity or leaving anything open to interpretation.

Additionally, it is recommended that regular training sessions be conducted in order to keep team members’ information up-to-date, as well as to provide them with any updates regarding changes to privacy laws.

Auditing compliance with privacy laws should be done on a regular basis to ensure that agents are adhering to all regulations. To avoid any disruptions, these audits can be staggered at set intervals so that everyone has time to prepare.

2. Implement the right software

The best way to start improving patient care is by implementing the right software. This will make your teams and workflows operate more efficiently and smoothly, allowing you to provide a better overall experience for your patients.
There are many software programs and tools available that can help you automate your processes or communicate more effectively with patients. This can include the best patient intake tools or communication tools. When choosing a communication tool, be sure to select one that your patients are already using. For example, if your patients prefer using a particular chat or messaging app, then you should use that same app for communication.

3. Conduct specialized staff training

Offer specialized training to employees on how to handle difficult customer service situations. Stress is an inherent part of any customer service job. When customers interact with a company, they have certain expectations of that company. In the healthcare industry, those expectations are understandably high. Specialized training can help employees learn how to effectively manage stress and meet customer expectations.

The choices agents make can have a profound impact on people’s lives. The people they serve may be ill or grieving, so it is important to make decisions carefully.

Someone with experience working in customer support may not have the tools to handle the types of cases that come up when doing customer service in healthcare.

While people working in support may have a lot of empathy, it’s important that they don’t try to do too much. If they’re not careful, they could end up burning themselves out.

Given the potential emotional nature of the work, it is important that staff receive training on how to decompress and cope. By providing staff with the necessary tools, you can encourage their own well-being and empower them to provide a high level of service.

4. Schedule appointments

It is important to be proactive with your patients and schedule their appointments in advance in order to provide excellent customer service in healthcare.

You can make scheduling appointments even easier for your patients by implementing patient texting to automate appointment scheduling while remaining personal in your messaging. Fifty-five percent of respondents to a Twilio survey said they would like to reply to reminder alerts to confirm, ask for more information, or reschedule.

Sending appointment reminders through SMS can help reduce missed appointments by up to 26 percent, making it an effective way to keep your patients’ schedules on track.

 

5. Make patient records easy to access

When choosing a patient portal for your practice, be sure to pick one with a great user experience. Your patients should be able to easily access their healthcare records, lab results, and other information without any hassle. If your patient portal is difficult to use, your patients will likely avoid using it altogether.

There are some important factors to consider when designing your online portal, such as making sure it is easy to search and navigate, has a clean and simple design, offers the ability to create an account for future use, and provides 24/7 support via chat or phone.

6. Encourage patients to take an active role in their care.

By empowering patients to help themselves, we can lighten the load on our customer service team and provide better care overall. This could involve something as simple as resetting a password or updating an address on an account. In healthcare, it may mean scheduling an appointment. Whatever the case may be, patients who are proactive in their care will ultimately receive better care and have a better overall experience.

By reducing the need for customers to contact customer service, you can improve the overall customer experience. Your support team can track customer requests and use that data to make new tools or updates to help improve the customer experience.

If you operate an in-person clinic, you can streamline patient check-in by setting up a dedicated check-in station. For organizations that don’t deliver in-person care, investing in a robust knowledge base can empower patients to serve themselves.

A study found that 80% of patients prefer physicians who have some sort of online scheduling. Enabling those who use your products or services to help themselves is beneficial for all parties involved.

7. Encourage team self-care

Self-care is important for healthcare workers in order to avoid burnout. Encourage your team to take care of themselves emotionally and physically in order to maintain their well-being.

It is necessary for your staff to have time and space to process the experiences and emotions in order to continue providing a high level of service. Encourage team members to practice self-care to promote a healthy work-life balance.

You could check in with people on a weekly basis to see how they are feeling. If someone voices that they are struggling, take additional time to chat with them and help them process. If there is no one on staff qualified to provide that support, make sure they have access to an outside resource.

Also, think about giving employees some extra time off if they seem to be especially exhausted. Our emotional and physical health are closely related, so if one is neglected, the other is likely to suffer as well.

It is important to be thoughtful and create an environment of trust by building a strong rapport with your team. If they are not healthy, they cannot do their best work. Ultimately, this comes down to creating a positive and productive workplace where everyone can thrive.

8. Improve billing and collection process

One way to reduce patient stress levels is to improve billing and collections procedures. This can help simplify the billing process and make it easier for patients to understand how much they owe and how to pay it.

It is because most medical bills are not given out right away. Healthcare facilities take some time to process payments with insurance before patients get the final cost.

You can improve the billing and collections process for your patients to reduce stress and improve customer service. A smooth transaction process is key to successful customer service, even in the healthcare industry.

One way to improve the medical billing and collections process is by communicating directly with patients on channels they use, such as business texting or email.

Business texting is an efficient way to communicate with patients about their balances. MMS and link-sharing capabilities make it easy to collect payments via text. Similarly, email can be used to follow up with patients about their bills. You can ask your patients how they prefer to receive their bills and take appropriate action based on their preferences.

 

9. Collect feedback from patients

It is important to collect feedback from patients in order to understand their needs. Feedback can help to identify areas of strength and areas for improvement.

In healthcare, where personal interactions are so important, it is crucial to gather as much feedback as possible. This way, you can anticipate the needs of your patients.

You can develop surveys to collect feedback about different types of patient interactions. This feedback can be used to improve all phases of care. For example, you could ask about the experience of doing routine tasks like scheduling or moving an appointment.
Other areas to explore include patient interactions with healthcare staff. Did the patient feel that their concerns were addressed? Could something have been explained better? How comfortable were they interacting with different staff members?

You can also conduct in-depth patient interviews. Though they may require more resources and have a smaller sample size than a general survey, they can provide more insight, which could lead to more effective surveys later on.

In order to improve an experience, it is necessary to gain an understanding of how it is currently going. Feedback provides the insights needed to deliver quality care and serve patients more effectively.

10. Continue care after patient discharge

It is important to maintain contact with patients after they leave the hospital or medical facility. For many patients, post-visit care is essential in helping them to feel comfortable and confident after being discharged. Also, continuing patient care after discharging a patient is crucial to provide excellent customer service. There are a number of ways you can continue to provide post-care.

As starter you can use health apps that allow patients to log their daily health stats, such as blood pressure, glucose level, etc. These apps can be a helpful way for nurses to check in on patients without having to contact them directly. Most apps also allow patients and nurses to contact each other if needed.

Final Thoughts

Working in healthcare can be difficult, as it presents unique challenges that require special consideration. Though it may feel like a tall order, it is necessary in order to have the best outcomes for employees and patients alike.
Make sure you take the time to address the needs of everyone involved. By doing so, you will help create a healthier environment where everyone can succeed.

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