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Hospitality in Health Care

How is it possible that for a person in a hospital, good food and a quiet room drive patient-satisfaction scores as much or more than the medical care they receive? According to reporting by U.S. News & World Report, “Patient-satisfaction scores were more dependent on ‘hospitality’ factors … than on hard measures of health care quality.”

“Especially as COVID-19 got going in 2020, making people feel comfortable and safe in our offices was top priority,” explains Karla Tolzin, director of admission at Southdale ObGyn. “Patients are always watching, now more than ever, and they need to see that we’re doing what we say we’re going to do. During this pandemic, that’s everything from disinfecting chairs and cleaning bathrooms to having one bucket for clean pens and one for dirty pens.”

This concept of being “on stage” is a best practice that leaders in the hospitality industry have honed to near perfection and continue to advance. At every touchpoint, the customer – in this case, the patient, from the time they schedule an appointment to reconcile billing statements – can become a positive or negative experience. Positive experiences, of course, win the day and build long-term brand loyalty.

At CEL Marketing PR Design, Chelsea Janke refers to Disney. She says, “At Disney, there’s a lot of activity that goes on behind the scenes, exactly like in a hospital or clinic. But everything in the public eye at Disney is carefully coordinated, monitored and measured to make sure the guest experience is net positive. Building trust depends on seeing, hearing and believing, and it’s far more cost-efficient to keep and retain customers than win them back.”

Christian White of White & Associates Practice Consulting coined the term “demonstration marketing.” “Patients are always watching what the staff is doing,” he notes. “We work with dentists on the business of their practices, and we stress the fact that they have to demonstrate what it’s like coming into the office because new patients are going online and looking at reviews. They need to know what to expect, and it’s personal service that keeps them coming back.”

Ultimately, delivering positive customer experiences in a health care setting comes down to how patients interact with all staff. It starts from the moment they contact the clinic, whether by phone or using a scheduling service or going to the website.

Tolzin looks ahead and notes, “In 2021, everyone is more comfortable with telehealth, and no doubt we’ll continue to use it. It’s great for a routine check-in with a new mom who prefers to stay home with her baby because of COVID-19 guidelines or just because it’s a subzero winter day. But as important as it is now and moving forward, we can never lose the human touch.”

Frame Changers, a Minnesota-based consulting firm founded in 2021 by Paul Omodt and Mike Porter, Ph.D., lists seven points for defining the human touch and knowing what effective employee engagement looks like:

  • Anyone can be friendly
  • Everyone can be helpful
  • Learn the issue, find a solution
  • Explain your plan
  • Act on your plan
  • Assure passing of responsibility
  • Follow-up as needed

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trends in health care as it has in every industry. Understanding and meeting the hospitality expectations of patients will remain an ongoing driving force for reaching new customers and retaining existing ones.

Published on: February 23, 2021