Hospitals Up the Ante with Hospitality-Style Customer Service

Customer service—long a leading indicator of success in the hospitality industry—is becoming increasingly important in healthcare, and with good reason. Competition for patient loyalty is serious business.

Increased referrals to family and friends can lead to more utilization of hospital services, and inherent in those word of mouth referrals are brand and reputation building opportunities for hospitals and health systems.

In fact, a Deloitte report found that hospitals with “excellent” ratings on CMS’ Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems patient satisfaction survey had a net profit margin of 4.7%, on average, compared with just 1.8% for hospitals with “low” ratings during the period from 2008-2014. Those “likes” can really add up.

There are now a number of different hospitality-oriented patient experience services available, and HealthcareDIVE recently reported on some of them. Paul Westbrook, founder of Westbrook Consulting and former vice president of patient experience at Inova Health System in Northern Virginia, says that the mindset transition from a provider-center to patient-centric becomes “critical, particularly as healthcare becomes more consumer-driven.”

Social media outlets increase transparency and new competitors such as retail clinics up the ante for hospitals to compete for patient loyalty. We’ve seen the changes in hospitals as they become more patient centric: hospital lobby decor that resembles a hotel lobby; restaurant-caliber menus with farm-to-table ingredients; concierge services and growth in the number of “chief patient experience officers.”

Westbrook counsels, that “If concierge services (vs. amenities) intersect with improving communication and coordinated care for patients/family members, then great.” But he notes, “The key is personalized, anticipatory service to relieve fear and anxiety through clear, easy-to-understand communication and coordinated care between providers and facilities.”

In other words, good old-fashioned, customer service.

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