Train hospitals in customer service to boost patient satisfaction

With reimbursements on the line, hospitals are paying more attention to keeping their patients happy. At the University of Kansas Hospital, customer service training helped the organization boost patient satisfaction scores to 80 to 90 percent, according to its weekly reports.

The clinical quality assurance manager trains all new hires--everyone from physicians to the workers who park cars--during a required day-long session as part of their orientation, reports The Kansas City Star. Among the training is advice about simple patient care changes, such as making eye contacting, using the titles of Mr., Mrs., and Ms., knocking before entering the room, listening, and of course, being polite at every encounter.

"For every job, our priority is taking care of patients, even if you never actually touch a patient," Kansas University Hospital Clinical Quality Assurance Manager Paula Miller said at a training session.

In addition to improved patient satisfaction, Miller said that the organization also has witnessed improved mortality rates, better patient outcomes, higher bed occupancy, and the migration of top physicians to the hospital from other practices.

"It's the reputation of physicians who generally bring people to the hospital, but it's the support staff that will keep them here and bring them back," Miller said.

Although some providers criticize the emphasis on patient satisfaction and the patient experience, others see value in approaching patients like customers.

"As healthcare providers, we need to take off the table the notion that consumers are going to assume the quality of the product; [what they will assume is the] delivery of that product," Patrick Jordan, healthcare consultant at Disney Institute, told FierceHealthcare in a previous interview. The Disney Institute offers leadership training to hospitals about Disney's reputable service and how to apply it to healthcare.

"As a patient, I might not know that [hospitals are] using the best equipment or that my medical record is accurate or that there is a better, more relevant drug to address my issue; I don't know any of those things as a healthcare consumer," Jordan said. "But what I do know is how I felt about the experience: where I parked, how long I waited, my perception of how I was treated in the waiting room, how long I sat in the exam room, how comfortable the furniture was, how private I thought my information was being kept. All of that contributes to my experience around that visit."

For more information:
- read the Kansas City Star article
- check out the FierceHealthcare interview

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