Balancing Consumer Needs with Healthcare Provider Expectations

December 9, 2021

Balancing Consumer Needs with Healthcare Provider Expectations

Thought Leadership: From the CEO’s Desk

Richard Leaver, Alliance PTP CEO – Many years ago, I worked in a physician office as a physical therapist. Each day, the medical practice would schedule patients at 15 minute intervals beginning at 10 a.m. As in any physician office, upon the arrival of the patient, they would be escorted to a private treatment room and basic history and vital signs taken by a medical assistant, and would wait for the physician to enter the consultation room to discuss their medical issues.

What the patients were unaware of was that the physician arrived in the building at 11 a.m. each day. Although patients had waited for at least an hour, no apology was provided to the patient for the tardiness and they were none the wiser as to the reason for the delay. Based on my own experiences in physician offices, I would not be surprised if this behavior is common. 

What’s the deal with healthcare customer service or lack thereof?

I have often wondered why, as consumers, we are accepting generally poor levels of customer service by so many healthcare providers. If we arrived at a restaurant and were asked to sit in a side room for an hour with no interactions before being seated to dine, I am sure we would consider it an unacceptably low level of service. As such, why do we tolerate such service levels at certain healthcare establishments? 

As a healthcare provider, I must accept and embrace that I provide a service to consumers which is fundamentally no different to any other service-based industry. Why should patients only be able to see me Monday to Friday within limited office hours? Why is it acceptable for me to be closed on the weekends? Why can’t patients communicate with me directly to discuss a medical issue? Why do patients have to accommodate my schedule rather than me theirs? 

Over the last decade, the expectations of the healthcare consumer have been steadily rising.

No longer are patients accepting of poor or mediocre levels of service. The standard of service expected by healthcare providers is now like any other service-based industry. To ignore the rise of healthcare consumerism is the equivalent of signing your own death certificate as a provider of choice.

The winners will be those healthcare providers and medical practices that are prepared to offer patients world-class levels of customer service at a location and time convenient to them. However, I question whether healthcare providers themselves are ready to embrace the behaviors and expectations associated with delivering levels of service traditionally only seen and experienced in 5-star establishments.