Our pediatrician is the best. She’s personable, easygoing and terrific with my kids. In fact, the whole nursing staff is fantastic. They make it easy to be a patient.
And yet … I dread having to call the health system. While the menu system is OK, it breaks down quickly once I’m on hold, listening to loud music and a looped message about flu shots. We know from research on customer hold times that vocal interruptions layered over music frustrate customers.
But there are simple ways to improve the customer experience in healthcare. It’s not just about fancy customer experience trends, like wearable devices. It’s also about the basics, like making it easy for patients to connect with you.
4 low-tech tips for improving the patient experience
1. Offer multiple ways to connect
Many health systems now use products such as MyChart that make it easy to log on and view medical records and schedule appointments. I certainly use it, but sometimes I may want to have a virtual chat. And there are times when I need to speak on the phone, to a person.
Provide multiple ways for getting in touch, so people can choose the communication method that fits their situation.
2. Provide on-hold options
In my life as a Mac user, I bet I have called AppleCare 50 times. I am usually anxious if I have to call (because it means something is wrong). Yet, I have positive associations with calling.
I appreciate that AppleCare gives me a choice of music or silence (often what I need so I can continue working while waiting). There is even a callback option so that I don’t have to stay on hold.
Healthcare systems can improve the customer experience by simply offering more on-hold options, like silence or a callback.
3. Train your front-end people
One of my favorite tips for improving the patient experience is from this Becker’s Hospital Review piece. “Always smile when answering the phone. There is an audibly detectable difference in the tone of your voice when you smile,” the author writes.
People calling their healthcare system may feel anxious or nervous – and a smiling voice can act like a salve.
4. Respond to consumers
I sent an email to the corporate office of my health system to complain about the on-hold experience. I even checked the box that said, “Check this box if you want a response.”
Nearly 6 weeks have passed – and there has been no answer. A simple response could have improved my experience by letting me know that they hear my concern and are taking it seriously.
If you’re a patient contacting a doctor, there is already something you don’t feel good about – your kid’s fever, your posterior tibial tendon, your insomnia. Healthcare organizations can start making patients feel better right away – with the phone.
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