Customer Service Skills for Health Professionals

It’s a thing that should exist.

People think customer service office work is low end mindless work.

But if you do it well, if you want to be good, it requires skills.  Interpersonal communication skills that require effort and intention.

And I think those skills should be REQUIRED learning for healthcare professionals.  Particularly doctors and nurse practitioners.

A huge amount of diagnosis is getting the relevant information from the patient. That requires guided discussions and active listening.  That requires making sure that both people are sharing understanding of what is being discussed.

Another huge part of healthcare is communicating clearly about diagnosis and plans for fixing problems.  Again, that requires that both parties fully understand what is being discussed.

And finally respect must be communicated.  Fully 80% of what is communicated in a person to person conversation is inferred by body language, tone and assumptions about shared meaning.  Respect is part of that 80% but it is also a pivot in how a person accepts the information they are being given.

There is a reason that some people look at a news story and see truth and others see fake news.  We filter information through our feelings.  The feeling we have about an interaction quite literally changes the understanding we have about the information.

Customer Service, when it is done well, is not so much about happy customers.  It’s about clear transmission of information.  It’s about solving a problem with communication.  Because a person doesn’t feel their problem is solved unless that customer service person made them feel confident that it was solved, regardless of whether or not it was solved.

Studies have shown that people sue doctors that they don’t like, not doctors who screw up.  In other words, if a doctor is likable but makes a bad diagnosis they are far less likely to be sued.  Because people trust the communication more than they trust the ACTUAL SOLUTION.

Insurance companies try to leverage this point to reduce malpractice by teaching doctors to be likeable.  But I think a much more salient point is my original one.  The one that is buried in why people don’t sue doctors they like.  Because HOW people understand what is said is deeply embedded in the feeling of respect and understanding they get from a doctor.

Shared understanding is sitting on a platform of respect.

Medical Schools need to require, at MINIMUM, the level of customer service skills that get taught to the best customer service centers.  And frankly they ought to be taught at the level of a counselor.  If they were, I would bet that the outcomes would be markedly improved.

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4 thoughts on “Customer Service Skills for Health Professionals

  1. When my sister was in med school, they actually had to have “bedside manner” training. Apparently med students have a tendency to get super excited about rare, incurable diseases and infections and forget their patient is a real person who is not so excited about those things.

    Med schools need to expand such training. Listening skills would be a start.

    Liked by 1 person

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