Because patient satisfaction has become more important to hospitals’ bottom line, many facilities are starting to focus on improving the patient experience, even drawing inspiration from customer service professionals in the hospitality industry.
While some hospitals are offering patients amenities similar to those found at hotels, such as fancier food and updated patient rooms, others are taking a less costly, but still effective approach by focusing on anticipatory patient service.
Anticipatory, proactive service often happens at restaurants. Attentive waiters refill drinks or bring new baskets of bread to tables without being asked. Based on their observations of customers, they anticipate needs and fill them in advance.
These principles can also be applied to healthcare delivery. Dr. Neil Baum, a urologist and author, wrote a blog post for KevinMD.com about how healthcare providers can use anticipatory service to improve patient treatment.
Examples for health care
As Dr. Baum states, “anticipatory patient service is about being one step ahead of patients’ thinking and needs.” It takes a bit of extra effort to provide this type of service to patients, but it leaves a positive impression on them – which can translate into higher patient satisfaction scores.
One area where hospitals can practice anticipatory service is when prescribing medication to patients.
In the era of WebMD and Google, patients want as much information about their medications as possible, including any side effects or interactions. Instead of leaving it up to pharmacists to provide those details, or having patients look them up independently, some providers create a list of FAQs about common drugs they prescribe to patients, with details such as the drug’s purpose, and any potential interactions or side effects to watch for. After patients read the list, they’re encouraged to ask any questions that haven’t been addressed before they’re discharged.
To take this concept a bit further, Dr. Baum suggests being even more proactive by helping patients estimate the costs of their medications. Patients often experience “sticker shock” when picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy, finding out they cost hundreds of dollars. In these cases, they’ll tend not to purchase the drugs at all, which can put their recovery in jeopardy.
Providers can remove the element of surprise (and increase the chances patients will take their medication) by offering pricing information before prescriptions are filled. Find out how much the common drugs you prescribe cost at multiple local pharmacies, then pass the list onto patients. Depending on the pharmacy chosen, drugs can have drastically different prices, and cost-conscious patients will appreciate having data for comparison.
Another example of anticipatory service involves follow-ups after discharge. Taking the time to call patients and check on their recovery can prevent a host of complications, because it gives the patient an opportunity to ask questions and clear up any confusion about the post-discharge care plan. Providers can specifically target patients who are more likely to suffer complications if discharge instructions aren’t followed, including those with multiple chronic conditions.
Making the extra effort to anticipate patients’ needs can be just what your hospital needs to stand out among its competitors. And that can increase your facility’s business while improving your value in patients’ eyes, which is essential to meeting quality benchmarks and boosting patient satisfaction scores.