How You Can Tell if a Hospital is Customer Centric! Part 1

Much has been written about improving the patient experience within hospitals. Under healthcare reform, penalties are incurred if patients with certain conditions are re-admitted within 30 days of discharge.

For these and other reasons many hospitals have gone to some extreme measures to make their facilities more patient friendly. It’s taken awhile for hospitals to actually realize that they should care about the service that they provide to their patients and the way in which they treat their visitors and family members of those patients.

As a former clinician and hospital CEO I have spent considerable time in hospitals. In my current role, I make sales calls with clients to hospitals and I occasionally visit a friend or relative.

In Part 1 of this blog I would like to share some personal experiences with you that I have encountered over the last few months. As a visitor, here are some specific examples from Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn (SHO) in Scottsdale Arizona, Scottsdale Healthcare Thomson Peak (SHTP) in Scottsdale Arizona and Tucson Medical Center in Tucson Arizona (TMC). In SHO I was visiting a family member, in SHTP I was the patient and in TMC I was visiting a close friend that was terminal. In part (next week) I will share some personal experiences of being a patient in a hospital.

It Takes More than Lip Service

As a family member or friend visiting a hospital, here is how you can tell if the hospital is customer friendly. First, the hospital must realize that their customer is the patient first and then their family members and visitors followed by their staff. Ultimately, the patient completes the patient satisfaction survey but oftentimes they do so in conjunction or with a family member; or with the comments and experiences of their family member resonating in their mind.

Family Member & Visitor Perspective

  • Parking– Parking at most hospitals is a nightmare. You can drive around for days looking for an open spot. To solve this problem many hospitals now offer valet parking. If they offer valet parking it’s a good idea to actually have an attendant available; (TMC) did not on a Saturday morning while (SH0) had attendants on duty during the posted hours every day. If a hospital doesn’t have valet parking, they should at least have open spaces available for family members and visitors. SHTP had a plethora of open spaces for visitors to park.
  • Signage & Directions– Directions within the hospital should be clear and easy to understand. You should actually be able to find your way without an escort. Although this is a JCAHO requirement, it is not always clear for visitors how to get from one area to another. The signage within SHO and SHTP was excellent. At TMC it was poor.
  • Helpfulness– If you ask how to get somewhere within the hospital, someone takes you there instead of providing you with a map. AT SHO a volunteer took me to my destination while an attendant at TMC gave me a map with the route highlighted in green. The result was I got lost. Maybe I need improved map reading skills? There was redemption, however, I was particularly impressed with one nurse that stopped me in the hall way at TMC and asked “Can I help you find where you are going?” While she didn’t take me there, she at least provided clear instructions. At SHTP there were volunteers available to take family members wherever they needed to go.
  • Staff Interaction-When a staff member enters the patient room for the first time on each shift they should begin by stating their name, title and their purpose. For example my name is Stacy and I am from Housekeeping- May I clean your room? Another great example is when the staff member that is in the room asks the patient “Is there anything else that I can do for you before I leave”? All three hospitals did a great job in this area.
  • Wait Areas– There are many different waiting areas within a hospital. At SHO the surgical waiting area is properly staffed with attentive personnel that were warm and friendly. If you have ever had a family member or friend undergo surgery you know that it is very difficult waiting for the surgeon to come out and tell you how the surgery went. Minutes seem like hours and hours feel like days. It’s very important to have a surgical waiting area that is large enough for all of the family members, has large comfortable chairs, televisions, Wi-Fi, coffee and restrooms that are close-by.

 Warm and attentive personnel provide a soothing feeling for family members and friends. At SHO, the volunteer that was working in the surgical wait area introduced herself, discussed the amenities available, made sure that I knew how long the surgery for my family member would take, and asked me to let her know if I needed to leave the area. She also let me know when the surgery was over and that my family member was in the post anesthesia recovery room. A few minutes later she came and got me and told me that the surgeon would be out to see me shortly and she directed me to a small private room. AT TMC, the ICU wait area was spacious, quiet and comfortable. The spaciousness offered families the ability to congregate together and have quiet, personal conversations. At SHTP, the waiting area was clean, quiet and comfortable.

  • Food Service– The hospital should provide healthy food choices for their patients, staff members and family. At SHO and SHO patients could pick their own food choices from a selection of items on the television based upon their clinical condition. Each food item showed the calorie count so that healthy choices could be made. Within SHOs cafeteria there was also a well-stocked salad bar and a wide variety of food choices with the calorie count prominently displayed. Contrast this to TMC where most of the food choices looked like they were catered from a fast food restaurant. My arteries hardened just walking through the cafeteria. Hospitals should set the standard with healthy food choices.
  • Compassion & Honesty Compassion and honesty by the medical staff is very important. Several weeks ago my best friend was in the ICU at Tucson Medical Center. His condition was perilous and the physician had to tell his spouse and family that the end was near and that he should be moved to hospice. It was done in a very thoughtful and humane way. The physician communication was out-standing given the very difficult circumstances.

In our next blog (in several weeks due to the holidays) we will describe two patients’ experiences and discuss some of the key areas that are on hospital patient satisfaction surveys. By reading both blogs you will easily see that patient satisfaction is both a science and an art. Savvy sellers are doing their best to help hospitals and health care workers improve their patient satisfaction scores.