How the NHS thinks about its customers

I recently had a short stay in the hospital to have my appendix removed, I am now feeling much better and have had some time to reflect on my stay. The National Health Service (NHS) has always had to balance providing a good service and providing an efficient one. During my time in hospital this balancing act was something that I often noticed, thinking back through my stay there were 3 key stages that I would like to share with you

Triage…

From my work in the ASE I know that understanding what every customer wants and needs is crucial to providing a good service. To ensure that their experience is a positive one you need to understand the customer in as much detail as possible. I noticed that this was done in a couple of phases and a couple of overarching questions apply to each

1. Who is the customer? – When I arrived I handed the receptionist a note from my GP, other individuals in the room were given forms and a small group of people were asked the same questions directly.

2. Why are they here? – A junior doctor spoke to me to understand my current ailment that brought me to hospital, they asked questions and ran some physical tests to understand my condition in more detail. I was then seen by a more senior doctor to confirm the initial thinking and to identify the possible solutions to my symptoms.

This triage process provided the hospital with all the information they needed to identify the problem and the possible cure. This process is replicated in other companies and other scenarios across the globe and follows a simple pattern of information gathering, verification and reallocation of work. Whilst it would be nice for the senior doctor to be able to see each and every patient at the start of the process to talk through their name and address it is not an efficient us of their time. Especially when there might be another patient who requires that expertise more urgently.

Tracking…

Throughout my time in the hospital I moved between wards, the operating room and the recovery room and was looked after by a team of doctors, anaethetists, nurses and consultants. Every new person who I met, every time I was given drugs or moved to a different location I was asked to confirm my name and date of birth. In short I was asked to confirm who I was, they were tracking me through the hospital. This has the potential to become annoying after some time until you realise the scale of any hospital, the number of customers each individual in the hospital meets in a day or even an hour. I can imagine it would be too easy to confuse one patient with another and provide them with the wrong cure.

Any good customer service requires the ability to track its customers, to understand what has happened to them since they were last spoken to, to know what has changed and what is different and to know who you are talking with. What is recorded in that mechanism will depend on the service provided and the customers themselves.

Follow up…

Following my appendectomy I was asked to come back for a follow up appointment to review my progress and check on my condition. The importance of after care when it comes to customer exerience can not be over stated, it provides the opportunity to review the service given, understand else can be done and resolve any issues that may have arisen since the first visit. In NHS terms, if I hadn’t healed properly and didnt have the knowledge to realise then I would have to go through the whole process again without a follow up session.

Do you triage, track and follow up on your customers?