Patients – a different approach
It is time to review the Practice work and the three aspects, which would play key parts in the goodwill of the surgery, are:
- Practice treating Patients asustomers
- Motivation of Practice Staff
- Human Psychology.
PMgr and in fact all GPs, Nurses and staff should treat as Customers – all patients, current and new as well as all employees. This concept is sacrosanct for the prestige and growth of the surgery.
The term Customers might have different connotations when applied to surgery practices:
- GPs have captive ‘patients /customers’ within the NHS defined catchment areas;
* GPs incomes are related to the Patient lists and for extra services provided as well.
- GPs income is paid monthly irrespective of type of service provided.
* Only when complaints reach above a certain level do the GPs are investigated.
* The GPs may be struck off in severe cases of malpractice but customer numbers stay nearly the same and new GPs take over.
* No other business enjoys the privileges of guaranteed income with rent, rates and grants offered for expansion or improvements to the business s surgery enjoys.
* However, in Practices, the time allocated to the Patients / Customers is strictly rationed – normal appointments only 10 min and appointment for clinics 20 min.
It is common for GPs:
- To take the high plane and look down on the patients and even feel that the patients should be more grateful and not moan and complain. Several GPs and Nurses still have not learnt how to ‘communicate’ at all and they rarely ‘listen’. They are more used to ‘tell’ when patients are concerned.
- To write the prescription even before asking the patient the reason for the appointment!
For years GPs have been perceived as ‘semi-gods’ and held in high esteem without patients questioning them of the service they have provided. Things have changed since the New Contract in 2003 and GPs and the practice is accountable and their services are measured and investigated when complaints arise.
Surgery management has to shift their thinking and treat patients as customers. This is a big ask because the saying ‘customer is king’ does not apply to patients who view the GP’s as ‘semi-gods’. Statements like ‘How may I help you’ feels more like ‘cheque is in the post’. Customer service is not just dealing with complaints and problem solving. Good customer service is not an option; in today’s environment it is crucial to outperform other surgeries.
A number of surgeries were much too complacent and they didn’t even know or wouldn’t even admit it’.
The change in thinking has to start with a sense of awareness. Complacency leads to a false sense of awareness. Increasing this awareness can be dealt with in four ways: bring the outside in; behave with awareness every day; find opportunity in crisis; and deal robustly with all ‘No-no’s’. Awareness to be kept focused each day and behaves as if the future begins today.
Motivation and Psychology:
These are very complex subjects and innumerable books deal with these areas exhaustively. An attempt is made to highlight certain areas leaving the rest to be sourced by the reader. PMgr needs to have honed on these skills to improve his/her performance.
- Overinvest in people – attract, motivate, train and reward; over-invest with emotional currency – trust, independence, praise, freedom, encouragement
- People will accept many flaws in their leaders but would never respect and trust an ‘anti-people’ character
- Hire people according to three ‘I’s’ – integrity; I could do it attitude, which is very critical; I to treat all people as special – make people feel that they are:
- Paid a fair days wages
- Measure staff performance and not be behind their backs; trust them.
- Train yourself not to ‘tell’ staff; allow dialogue and ideas from them.
- As good contributors to the practice and not just costs
- PMgr should not hesitate to say ‘please and thank you’ to the staff often.
PMgr should compliment people and not be frugal about it
- Credit them when they do a good job.
- Appreciate their efforts.
- Appreciate their being in your team.
- I need your help is better than ‘you do this’.
PMgr should also ensure that he/she:
- Give staff due credit when due.
- Give informal surprise bonuses.
- Is polite with everyone.
- Stays out of office politics
- Does not go over the budget – tight budget promote creativity, ingenuity and inventiveness – consider it as a challenge.
- Never underestimates an opponent.
- Never write a nasty memo – that criticizes, belittles, degrades, hurtful, cynical, condescending, and unkind, in anger or in frustration.
- Keep ‘idea notebook’ and also ‘’to do’ lists.
- Be friendly with their peer’s subordinates.
- Know everybody by his or her first names – pronounce it correctly.
- Organize ‘one-line, good-job’ tours.
- Keep and use special idea book – prepare ‘to do’ lists.
- Keep a people profile – people linkage and invest in people by devoting time.
- Occasional personal hand written memos would improve staff attitudes.
- Don’t try to cover up – sort it out quickly.
- Talk is cheap, so put it in action. Creativity without implementation is irresponsibility; Ideas are nothing without execution.
- Stop, look and listen – good listeners are considered great conversationalists; listening is equated with wisdom and intelligence. Listen, listen, and listen.
- Never panic or lose your temper – nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain cool and unruffled under all circumstances – Thomas Jefferson.
- Learn to speak and write in plain English – communications must be precise, complete and totally comprehensible.
6.1 Customer Service
To perceive Patients as Customers is a ‘big ask’ but unless the change occurs the surgery would go into bad reputation with serious consequences.
It is, therefore, crucial that GPs, Nurses and healthcare staff must change to treat patients as Customers. They all should do their own internal review of their attitudes and change to meet the new requirements for the welfare of the patients/customers and thereby the surgery. Good quality customer service gives the edge over competitors – surgeries within the catchment area. Regardless of industry, the following key principals of good customer service always make business sense.
6.1.1 Giving good service to existing customers (patients)
Satisfied patients stay with a surgery longer and spread the word to friends and contacts in the community, which will attract new patients.
6.1.2 Customer service costs real money
Real costs are associated with providing good customer service. Surgeries in ‘leafy suburbs’ with better facilities and decor generally benefit from more customer satisfaction.
Answering machines with long extended messages are more impersonal and may alienate the patients. So aim for short messages followed by a receptionist’s response to the call would satisfy the patients, as they feel happy that they are talking to someone.
6.1.3 Understanding customers’ needs and aim to meet them
To meet customers’ needs, the surgery must know what those needs were. To understand the customer’s needs, surgery should listen to the “voice of the customer” and take action accordingly.
Customer listening can be done in many ways, for example, feedback forms and satisfaction surveys.
6.1.4 Good process and product design is important
Good quality customer service is only one factor in meeting customer needs. The overall processes should meet customers’ needs more often. Adherence to good clinical governance is crucial in this aspect.
6.1.5 Customer service must be consistent
Customers expect consistent quality of customer service. Not only clinical excellence is important but also the behaviour of the receptionists, nurses and staff, in general, play a key part of the service.
6.1.6 Employees are also Customers
The quality management movement should highlight the concept of internal and external customers. Traditionally the focus is usually on external customers with little thought given to how internal departments interacted. Improving relationships with internal customers and suppliers assists delivery of better customer service to external customers, through reduced lead-times, increased quality and better communication.
The circular relationship between employees, customers and Partners need to be understood. Under-staffed, under-trained employees will not deliver good quality customer service, driving customers away. Equal effort must be made in attracting, motivating and retaining employees as is made for customers, ultimately delivering improved returns to the partners. Better returns to partners mean more money is available to invest in employees and so the circle continues.
6.1.7 Open all communications channels
The customer wants to contact you in many ways – face to face, by mail, phone, fax, and email – and will expect all of these communication channels to be open and easily inter-mingled.
This presents a technical challenge, as it requires an integrated, streamlined solution providing the employee with the information they need to effectively service the customer.
6.1.8 Every customer contact is a chance to shine
If a customer has a reason for a complaint, then SR and PMgr should be able to resolve the complaint swiftly, possibly enhancing the customer’s perception of the surgery. Feeding back this information allows corrective action to be made, stopping further occurrences of the error.
6.1.9 People expect good customer service everywhere.
Patients become frustrated when their expectations are not met, and increasingly demand higher service quality in more areas of their lives.
Providing outstanding customer service at the right price is the focus of most surgeries. It is worth remembering that we all experience customer service every day. We can learn from these and apply them in our own line of work, whatever it may be. The quality of good customer service will make the surgery stand out from other surgeries and for the right reasons!