Service – the cornerstone of a hospital’s reputation
Although hospitals offer treatments and cures, it is the quality of care that patients (and families) receive, that will determine the quality of the remembered experience. Although the role of the doctor and specialist provides the clinical credentials, it is without doubt, the nursing staff who are the cornerstone of the service experience. In addition to safe, efficient, and high-quality care, it is important that people believe nurses are sincerely concerned about them as people and treated them as an extension of their own families, because so much of the patient’s experience is dependent on that interaction between the nurse, patient, and family.
The decision to recommend the hospital, and the patient’s loyalty scores, are largely determined by the interaction patients and their families have with nurses. The reality is, that in many regions, there is already a heavy burden on the nursing workforce. The provision of quality service therefore needs to go beyond what we would like to do, but what we can realistically achieve with existing budgets and constraints.
Even when the facility provides safe care, hot meals, family waiting rooms, and combined with patient-centric philosophies, the loyalty that patients show after the experience is usually surprisingly lower than you would expect.
Here are some ways to prevent this unpleasant surprise:
1. Learn from the hospitality industry. The very existence of this industry depends not only on the ability to deliver high-quality care, but also customer loyalty that will result in recommendations and repeated patronage. Next time you visit a restaurant or hotel – notice what makes you feel comfortable and see if that happens in your facility.
2. The hospital is not about you – it is about them – the people you serve. Every day we see our facility from our only perspective – looking outwards. For a change, put yourself in the patient’s shoes. Are there enough signs to show people the way? Do these signs look inviting, or are they an extension of clinical authority? You may go to your favourite restaurant for the ambience, but what ambience do you create?
3. Does everyone who work there have a sense of ownership? This comes from a sense of affiliation by the team – but do they have a clear idea of what they are affiliated to? If the staff feel appreciated, loved and secure, it empowers them to provide the same to patients.
4. The emotional experience for patients transcends the traditional service model of reduced waiting time and frequent smiles. It includes the entire experience – from first contact to exit – and if this experience is done well, it ensures that patients and their families will come back and will highly recommend the health care organization. The challenge is to help our patients and their families transcend the ‘everyday routine’ of care, but provide them with a sense of affiliation and emotional connection with the organization and the staff.
The Picker-Commonwealth Patient-Centered Care Program was an important initiative of the Commonwealth Fund that produced groundbreaking research. After interviewing 6,000 patients about their experiences with the health care system, the conclusion is that we must consciously adopt the patient’s perspective in everything we do. This includes processes, infrastructure and ambience.