Customer ServiceMalpractice suits weigh heavily on the minds of physicians and healthcare facilities.  However, there is another concern to consider that can also cause irreversible damage – customer service complaints. While good customer service is important to every business, it is imperative in the healthcare industry.  From the office and lab staff, to the medical assistants, nurses and physicians, polite and helpful attitudes need to resonate throughout the entire practice, clinic or hospital.  In the age of the internet, social media and the new Affordable Care Act (ACA), a patient with a bad experience can result in serious repercussions for those providing healthcare services.  Aside from excellent customer service just being a “good practice,” here are some other reasons why it matters now more than it did in the past:

Customer Service – Negative Online Reviews

The internet has permeated our lives, transforming the way we think, act and do business.  Positive online reviews can be very advantageous, especially in the healthcare industry.  However, a bad experience can be detrimental if it is posted on places such as Google+ and Angie’s List.  And, if the negative experience goes viral, you have an even bigger problem on your hands.

Customer Service – Peer Impressions

Marketing strategists are finding that in the era of “social media”, peer impressions of a product or service carry a lot of weight.  In other words, if I have a positive experience with a physician practice and I post it across my personal social sites, there it is likely that one (or more) of my friends will seek care from the same doctor just based on my positive feedback.  On the other hand, if I post about a negative experience, it is likely that many, if not all, of my social connections will avoid going to that particular practice.  Often, people will ask questions on their social site such as, “does anyone know a good heart specialist in the Atlanta area?”  It is always interesting to read the comments in response.  Some people will reply with, “Go to Dr. XXX, he is wonderful…” while others may say, “Go see anyone except Dr. YYY.”  Your practice, clinic or facility definitely wants to be one of the “positive” referrals!

Customer Service – Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Survey

The HCAHPS is a Medicare required survey that measures the patient experience from a number of different perspectives.  From nurse and physician communication to staff responsiveness, cleanliness and quietness, hospitals can face repercussions if they are not providing quality services. These repercussions can be financial, in terms of reduced reimbursement from Medicare, and can be quite substantial. Taking those extra steps to ensure the highest quality of customer service is practiced on a daily basis throughout the organization, will add to your bottom line.

Any “business” in the healthcare industry should pay special attention to customer service.  Be sure to train everyone, especially front line staff, on proper etiquette and protocols.  Larger hospital systems and even health insurance companies have hired outside call centers experienced in customer service to handle patient concerns and monitor quality assurance.  After all, there is no definitive “cure” for negative comments or complaints posted online or on social media.

Gina Smith writes freelance articles for magazines, online outlets and publications. Smith covers the latest topics in the business, golf, tourism, technology and entertainment industries.