Because of the intangible and complex nature of medical service, patients don't understand and can't measure clinical quality. (You are a physician; thus patients assume high clinical quality.)
As a result, patients look for "clues" - some rational, some emotional - by which they can measure what they perceive as quality and value. For example, they look for:
- Clues associated with things - sights, smells, sounds, textures, and temperature; and
- Clues associated with people - choice of words, tone of voice, level of enthusiasm, appearance, and body language.
Interestingly, friendliness/courtesy of the physician or a physician who listens well usually is not listed in the top three responses when patients are asked what is most important to them. Most important are:
- Friendliness of staff (No. 1 on most surveys);
- Receiving results/call backs in a timely manner;
- Talking to a live person, not voice mail;
- Timely response for referrals;
- Limited waiting time;
- Greater/more flexible access to the office, better hours;
- Comfort of the waiting room; and
- Current magazines in the waiting area.
As patients begin paying for more health services out of pocket, their expectations for customer service will rise.
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