Employee Empowerment to Help Patients

by Dr Nick

Delivering Outstanding Service

I had a frustrating experience with a bank this week that had so many opportunities for correction and improvement. The short version was a requirement to follow a policy that no one could explain requiring additional steps necessary because the bank had taken so long to follow their process. At various points, the employees were forced to follow a senseless protocol and policy and given no flexibility. In some cases, it may not be possible to bend policy – perhaps because of regulatory requirements but when we reached of an extraordinarily frustrating experience I tried to tease out an apology or even an acceptance that perhaps this was not the best outcome and there might have been a better way. The lack of employee empowerment prevented them from accepting any responsibility, offering an apology and they were firmly stuck to a script filled with hollow “I understand your frustration” statements.

 

Healthcare and Satisfaction

There is an interesting connection between the soft aspects of the patient experience and customer satisfaction. The actual clinical experience and quality is important – and some would suggest the most important component. But in talking to patients, simple aspects of the experience that included reducing waiting times, personal interactions and communications. But if the staff are not enabled to deliver a good experience and find themselves pressured by production metrics that preclude the important human connection and support that patient crave. It is easy to lose sight of the human elements as we strive for efficiency and the system pushes us to squeeze more and more cost out of any activity.

 

Customer is Always Right

This is an age-old adage that no matter what “The Customer is always Right”. In healthcare, this can be a difficult strategy especially when given the poor information available for making decisions and the inherent bias built into our system to provide unnecessary care. Take the prescribing of antibiotics that has reached epic proportions that recent data suggests has reached levels as high as 30% that are unnecessary.

 

Incremental Improvements in Employee Empowerment

Recognizing the challenge of changing policy which can be a long journey my suggestions for incremental improvements start with empowerment

For any staff that deal with patients/customers

  • Empower your employees to make localized instant decisions
  • Provide them with a set fo guidelines on what they can do and offer
  • Set the boundary conditions but empower them to respond in cases of unhappy/upset patients
  • It could be as simple as offering a Gift Card for a Coffee or Snack accompanied by a genuine heartfelt apology
  • Provide a pathway for problems to be reported, reviewed by the team with input from everyone and accept suggestions and ideas on how things could have been improved or even fixed

 

You won’t just get happier patients – you will get happier employees

 

Do you have any better suggestions? What small change have you seen that makes a difference empowering your employees? What one thing could we do that would have a big impact in this area?

 

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