“Life is a cruel teacher. She loves to give you the test first and the lesson later.” – Daymond John
The past few months have, indeed, been a test for us. We have had very little training or experience in dealing with a situation of this magnitude, and we received the test before we learned the lessons. Healthcare institutions in some areas have borne the brunt of this situation, but all of us have had to improvise and adapt to the situation. It might seem strange to talk about “patient satisfaction” when certain hospitals and healthcare organizations have been overwhelmed with patients. The reality is, however, that most hospitals in this country have been affected more by the response to the COVID-19 crisis than by the onslaught of COVID patients. Bans on elective surgery and admissions have forced some institutions to lay off workers because they have lost millions in revenue. Yes, lives are more important than revenue, but without fiscally stable healthcare organizations, vital services cannot be offered; “no margin, no mission!”
The present crisis offers us important lessons on how to not only regain lost healthcare customers but to acquire new ones. Other industries have had to quickly adapt with some passes and some fails. Toward this end, I offer three lessons learned from our present “test.”
Lesson 1. Set appropriate expectations
This past Mother’s Day was a prime example of the overzealous desire to meet the needs of our customers. I had ordered dinner for my wife and I from one of her favorite restaurants. I ordered three days in advance for a certain time and received a confirmation email. Come Mother’s Day, the order arrived 2 hours late, cold and incomplete. The next day, the corporate office of the restaurant sent out an email apologizing to all of the people that they disappointed. This email was one of several from restaurant chains apologizing for orders arriving late or not at all.
By trying to meet all of the needs of all of the people, they alienated many customers who have other choices for restaurants. The same applies to healthcare organizations. Setting appropriate expectations is a critical element of patient satisfaction. Additionally, setting conservative expectations on the part of the customer has the added benefit of you possibly exceeding their expectations. If the expected wait for the Emergency Department was 2 hours and the patient was seen in 30 minutes, you have given them service that was better than they expected.