Why Patient Satisfaction Surveys are Critical for Service Recorvery

I normally blog from the perspective of an industry expert focused on market research survey software, discussing the multitude of applications, emerging technologies and best practices. Today however I’ll be writing from a more personal point of view. Without a doubt, the industry sector most in need of customer satisfaction feedback tools, methodologies and processes is healthcare. At Opinionmeter, we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping our healthcare customers apply the wide-range of survey technologies now available and healthcare represents the largest vertical for our business, but it seems we’ve just scratched the surface. The majority of healthcare organizations are still in the dark-ages when it comes to customer care and managing patient satisfaction feedback. Let me relay a story I heard just last night – unfortunately, these types of stories are all too prevalent.

A dear friend of mine, who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, was scheduled for an MRI. The MRI was necessary prior to meeting with the surgeon to discuss surgical options. Needless to say, anyone in this situation will be in a sensitive, fearful disposition. How much is it to ask that medical staff anticipate and be sensitive to patients state of mind (in this case, the radiology staff)? Is not empathy one of the most basic considerations for a caregiver to provide a patient – especially in these circumstances? I’m sure you can anticipate where this story is going…

My dear friend was first told that her sister, who was there to provide comfort and support, could not be present during the MRI procedure. Additionally, the radiology staff failed to orient her about what to expect during the procedure, which involved lying motionless within the MRI machine for 45 minutes face down on a hard cold surface pressing against her sore breasts (which were sore from recent biopsies). During the MRI procedure, staff did not once communicate with her; ask how she was doing, let her know how much longer the procedure would take, nothing! She was in pain, claustrophobic and in fear. When she emerged from the MRI machine, she told the staff “that was horrible! I would not wish this on my worst enemy, why didn’t you warn me…” The staff’s response was silence. The facility where my friend received this unacceptable, insensitive and in my opinion – incompetent service was the John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek – a highly respected healthcare institution! Makes you wonder what’s going on elsewhere, doesn’t it!

To bring this story back within the context of patient satisfaction surveys and the intelligent use of available customer feedback tools and technology – when my friend returned to the waiting room following the procedure, the only feedback method available was a ridiculously designed 5×7” paper feedback card with a scale of 4 smiley faces and a 2-inch space adjacent each of the 6 questions for the patient to input open-ended comments. John Muir is a wealthy, high-tech medical center and they are clearly not investing in patient satisfaction survey technologies that are widely available and proven to be even more cost-effective than paper surveys. For example, if they had a touch screen survey device (this could be a tablet, kiosk, or wall-mounted touch screen device). My friend could have provided her feedback quickly and efficiently at the point-of-care, which then could have triggered a satisfaction alert that would be delivered in real-time to the chain of command responsible for that radiology department. This would have triggered a service-recovery process and would have provided them a chance to intervene and recover a patient as well as avoid the spread of a different kind of cancer – patient dissatisfaction – which believe me, has already metastasized and spread throughout my friend’s family, friends and now this blog. When will healthcare institutions WAKE UP! It’s one thing to provide unacceptable patient care, but to add insult to injury is to not invest in patient satisfaction survey technology that can monitor and manage patient feedback in real-time.

A postscript to the above – the next day when my friend called to request the CD with the MRI images she was told that since she was menstruating at the time (which she disclosed to the staff prior to the procedure), she would need to go through the process all over again!

One Comment

  1. Leigh Thomas says:

    This is a distressing tale, and one it’s good you’ve had the courage to speak-up about, including naming the organisation which provided the “service”. In my experience, health care organisations can forget the basics of customer service, tending instead to think of the physicians as their customer rather than the patient. It is also regrettably easy for staff in clinical settings to become blasé. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people, I guess – mostly they’d be mortified to be thought badly of, but for them, working as they do, amongst illness and patient anxiety every day, they become immune. In my opinion, management needs to notice and reverse that whenever and wherever it appears. Organisational culture is really what’s on display in these situations, and often it’s found wanting. Giving the healthcare patient/customer a voice is an obvious step – and Opinionmeter is one way. Having a CEO and senior management interested in hearing that voice is the more difficult step.

    And, in closing these remarks, best of luck to the lady involved.

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