Service and Advocacy Matter to Seniors More than Ever
They say if you go food shopping when you’re hungry; you’ll purchase far more than intended because everything looks great.
Going out for dinner when you’re hungry to a favorite restaurant on a crowded weekend night, your evening will likely end in frustration, because service will be slow and you may find fault with the service and the food. Your overall mood may taint the entire evening because you were starving before you even got to the restaurant, and almost anything the server, cook or owner do will not meet your expectations.
Such is the challenge with patient advocacy and maximizing patient-centric care.
Representing the needs of a patient has as much to do with the patient’s mood and expectations, as it does with the quality controls and customer service that we put in place to meet and exceed those expectations. Much like the restaurateur has no control over the expectations of a famished client when they enter the establishment.
It’s all about customer service, quality control, policy, procedures, accountability and efficient monitoring systems. Let’s face it, just like the starving client coming to a restaurant; a sick patient starts off from a negative emotional state with a variety of expectations that you have no idea how to anticipate.
According to a Consumer Reports Study, the most common “gripe” or complaint that patients have about doctors and treatment is “under the explanation of the problem.” Other top complaints were feeling “rushed” during visits and being “discharged too quickly from the hospital,” “side-effects not being explained properly,” “negative conversations held within earshot of the patient” and of course “billing issues.” All of these matters fall under effective communication and customer service, both from the doctor, their staff and the patient advocate.
One of the unknowns in patient care is the patient’s current mental state and their expectations when they arrive and of course the attitude of supporting family members. Proper customer service, quality control, and systems should be in place to ask the right questions and determine the patient’s personal and medical needs, concerns, emotional state and the relationship with whoever is there in a supporting or advocacy role.
Let’s face it, with an aging population, we either know someone or have personally been in a position where we have had to get some form of medical treatment for either ourselves, a child or a parent. We know that some “advocates” feel that it is their responsibility to become the “squeaky wheel” so that they get the attention they deserve or their parent or child deserves. When mixed with feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and instability, well, we have no idea what to expect or the outcome.
However, this can all be mitigated and resolved through effective communication and customer service that have been put in place to address these very issues. Professional football coaches have been known to say to some of their players to calm down and “act like you have been there before” when one of their players scores a touchdown. As Patient Advocates and members of the medical community that provide services, we too have to “act like we have been here before.” You see, for many of our patients, they have not been here before and frankly don’t want to be. The emotional insecurity and uncertainty of not feeling well send ripple effects to those in their support system and of course can be scary for them.
That’s where statistical information and knowing what to do next comes in because we have “been here before.” Through the tens of thousands of cumulative interactions with patients and family members, we should know how to handle almost every situation correctly.
What is the system you have in place?
The famous saying from Dr. Stephen Covey in his famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “start with the end in mind.” And what is the result we desire? A healthy and happy client, and a satisfied support system and advocate. If that is our objective, then how do we begin the process? What are the systematic procedures that have been put in place, because we know from extensive research, what the necessary steps should be to guarantee a successful outcome? Just like almost any medical procedure.
As they say in the technology industry, “garbage in, garbage out.” If you put in the wrong data, you’re going to get the wrong conclusion every time. So, it’s critically important that whoever is responsible for greeting your customers does so efficiently, confidently and emphatically, so they can obtain the correct information from the client and their advocate.
Have you successfully managed expectations from the very beginning? Do you have the right medical information to determine a proper diagnosis? Have you obtained the proper emotional data to manage the expectations of the patient and the advocate, so that you can meet and exceed their expectations? And, if their expectations are unrealistic and their emotional state is causing significant issues, have the correct people been put in place to manage the situation so that it doesn’t spiral into a negative experience? There is your customer service in action.
Like your favorite restaurant. If the manager or owner recognizes you are unhappy, what do they do? They ask you what they can do to help you or make the situation better, and maybe send over a round of drinks or coffee or dessert. It’s a fraction of the overall tab and only takes a few moments to influence what may have otherwise been a negative experience positively.
Being patient-centric and aware that the success of your institution depends upon your ability to have patients and their families and advocates have positive experiences. Then you have to make sure that you have policies and procedures and empowered employees and leaders that can make impactful decisions that can positively influence your patients/customers.
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