10 things health care could do to improve customer experience

1. Take a lesson from the financial services industry, which has the tightest security and infrastructure to ferret out fraud, abuse and deception. Why can’t there be a clearing house of information available electronically that would house all of a person’s medical information in one place, updated regularly through the drug store, the physician’s office, or online by the patient and his/her caregiver?

2. When a prescription is filled, provide a color sticker of the pill that could be affixed, along with a description of the condition for which the drug is being prescribed. This way, the patient or his/her caregiver could assemble all the drugs onto one chart, with a place for dosage (i.e. twice a day, morning and night, etc.) so that the patient knows at a glance what to take and when, and importantly, why.

3. For new patients: Why not provide a log book for new patients, where the drugs, surgeries, allergies, etc. are all documented, and which could be brought each time to the office when the patient makes a visit?

4. None of the information currently written for patients is readable to older eyes, or eyes blurry from drugs or anesthesia or other treatments. Make the type larger for easier reading.

5. Review discharge orders, or medication plans with a view to user-friendliness. Make the instructions understandable, readable, and accessible. Better yet, have the patient write down the instructions given verbally, in their own handwriting, and have them read them back as they understand them. This way, the provider can see what they actually do understand, and correct any errors at that time.

6. Call the patient or caregiver within 24 hours to see if they have any questions and to ask about how they are. This gesture is both an excellent way to convey interest and caring, but also provides a chance to clarify any information the patient was either too overwhelmed or embarrassed to ask about.

7. Speak more slowly and carefully to patients. Medical jargon is often confusing and delivered with an avalanche of details. Patients find it difficult to absorb – especially so if the person talking is being abrupt, talks fast, or an accent. Young people often speak much more rapidly, often enunciating in a blurred fashion which makes it especially difficult to understand and track with what is being said. Slow down when talking with patients.

8. When a patient calls to make an appointment, the person often at the scheduling end is busy and not patient oriented. It’s important to understand that making an appointment with a doctor is not something one chooses to do, but has to do, and is therefore more stressed as a result. Show a little kindness, rather than just jump in to get the insurance and personal contact information. A pleasant person on the phone sets up a pleasant office visit later on.

9. Patients and caregivers are usually so overwhelmed when dealing with a major illness or medical problem. Between the paperwork, insurance forms, drugs, appointments, etc., the average person is frustrated and anxious. Why not offer, for a fee, to have someone help organize the details, set up the instructions, routine, supplies, etc.? Families would most likely be willing to pay for that kind of service if it would help organize their lives and reduce the burden on family members trying to cope with caregiving.

10. If you are a provider, remember that the medical environment is your life. You know the vocabulary of healthcare. But for a patient, or family member, the medical world is foreign and frightening. People often get angry when they are stressed and scared, and it’s important to understand that while you are caring for the medical problem, you also need to factor in the emotional walls that patients and their family members erect that can filter out your advice and set up an adversarial situation. Deal with the stress by acknowledging it, and the patient and family will be more reception to listening to you and complying with your recommendations.