June 9, 2017

Customer Service Taken to the Next Level

Working in the main hospital’s Emergency Department made me appreciate working in Freestanding Emergency Departments. It allowed me to see customer service at another level. Most of us went into emergency medicine to help others. All health care providers deliver the best care they can given the environment they are in. The busy ED makes it difficult to give the attention, care and time our patients deserve. 

The goal is to give patients the best care that we can. Here are some tools to help you achieve that goal. 

Play your strengths

start with your facility, what is special about your facility that other local businesses don’t have? What are the strengths of your business? For example, your FSED has coverage 24/7, this is your strength over urgent care facilities and primary care practices. Walk around your facility and see what else sets you apart from others and focus on those strengths. Evaluate each provider in your facility and identify the strengths of those individuals and see how all these factors can contribute to your overall customer service experience. 


Make sure that your staff is on board with customer service as the culture. Identify your customer service goals and make sure your staff is aware and will participate in your company goals. I have worked in different FSEDs. I have overheard staff (physicians, nurses, front office) complain that a patient is checking in. Our patients often notice this “culture” as they begin to feel they are not welcomed or they are a burden to the staff. This creates an accepted culture that is now based on staff needs and not centered on patient needs. 

Great ideas come from everyone

Make sure to have an open-door policy with all your staff. Often, they are quick to observe the needs of our patients at different levels. Each interaction with your patient as they enter the building has unique challenges and opportunities to make the customer experience even better. Take advantage of your amazing staff and ask them for their input. It will make them feel valued and like they are part of your management team. 

Focus on the customer (patient) and not the money

Our business model is: do the right thing; focus on what the patient needs and not on the reimbursement. Focus on making the patient have the best experience and building your patient “practice”. Care for all patients regardless of ability to pay, as in the end if you don’t, it costs the business more with negative social media comments or in ways that cannot be recovered easily. There has been negative press in the past about how a FSED “turned grandma away” because she had Medicare and how she ended up almost dying. The main focus is to do the right thing for the patient and everything else will follow. 

Seize the moment

Make the most of every interaction with your patient. Go the extra mile for your patient. Spending time with your patient is expected and that does not count. Walk the patient from the front door to the patient room. Bring the patient water and a warm blanket instead of having other staff do it. Stop having your nurses do all the callbacks, have your doctors do the callbacks. 

These are just a few examples of how you can change the patient experience. Please feel free to share your ideas with me and how we can improve the care we give to our patients.

Harvey Castro, MD, FACEP
Member at Large FEC Section

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