Kara Redoutey, MBA
Last week, we talked about making connections with our patients. No matter what industry you are in, you can apply the making connections strategy. Making connections and providing excellent customer service goes a long way. Customer retention, positive word of mouth, and a better bottom line are just a few of the benefits of making positive connections with patients. When we make connections with our patients, we want to make that a lasting connection by sharing information and hospital plans with them and by thanking them for choosing our healthcare system. At SOMC, our Grateful Patient Program is called Connections with Caregivers. The program gives our patients the option to recognize a member of their care team who made a difference in their patient experience, share their story with us, or give a donation in honor of the caregiver to the service line for which they are most passionate. They can also choose to do all three and many often do.
What are the barriers to doing this?
Successful grateful patient programs require buy in from every person who plays a role in patient interaction. So yes, that means everyone needs to be engaged: frontline staff members, nurses, managers, directors, providers, and volunteers. It can be difficult for folks outside of the development office to begin the conversation with patients about Connections with Caregivers. Since starting our program, we have received great feedback, such as folks saying they don’t feel comfortable asking for money, they don’t know how start the conversation, or they don’t have time. You also want to deliver a clear and consistent message to your patients without being too prescriptive. This conversation is best when it’s natural, so this can also be a barrier.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
There are so many great reasons to get involved in the grateful patient program. Patients often ask if there is a way to recognize a member of their care team. It happens every day. The Association for Healthcare Philanthropy’s Report on Giving in 2011 states that 85 percent of donations were made by individuals, with 21 percent given by grateful patients and families. As I mentioned in my last blog entry, many patients want and choose to give for various reasons. It’s unbelievably fulfilling to know that you have made such a difference in someone’s care that they are willing to recognize you, share their story, or provide a donation. And that donation will help you to provide an excellent experience to another patient in the future.
Another important point to make is that this conversation doesn’t have to be difficult and shouldn’t take any more time than you are already spending with your patient. If you are connecting with your patient and helping to create a positive experience for them, this conversation can happen naturally. An example of a simple time for it to happen is when the patient is expressing gratitude. You can then tell the patient how they can share their story or recognize a team member for going above and beyond. It’s not about asking for money. It’s about taking a moment to ask the patient about their experience and start a brief conversation. The stories our patients share with us are always more valuable than any monetary donation and real stories resonate with potential patients and donors really well too.
How can you help build the grateful patient program?
- Learn about your grateful patient program and ask questions about it. You will feel more confident in sharing the program when you are most knowledgeable. You may have cool ideas to share and it’s awesome to hear other perspectives.
- Begin the conversation or ask a member of your development team to help you with it. Once you start having these conversations, they will come more naturally to you.
- Again… Focus on customer service. We want our customers to have an excellent experience with us and we know it goes a long way when they do.
What have you done to go above and beyond for a patient or customer?