As a layman, if you enter in a hospital, what you will expect at first? You are registered at the OPD counter and now are waiting for the doctor’s call. How long you have to wait? When you will be called? How many more steps and procedures you have to take? How long it will take to finish each procedure? Where is the ending point? Who will help to clear such doubts?
The question here is how can hospitals overcome such difficulties in the OPD counter? There are different ways which can be adopted to tackle such a situation, like keeping display boards showing how long the patient have to wait in each procedure, having direction signs at the OPD entrance etc, This can be showed through flow charts at the reception as shown in Chart I.
This chart may not be applicable in some hospitals’ set up to meet patient requirement. For that, a minor study with your reception staff will help analyse patient flow, peak hour, doctors and technicians available etc, and after considering these factors, hospitals can design the flow.
A satisfied patient will inform five people about the services; while an unsatisfied one will inform 10-15 people about poor service and inferior treatment. The unsatisfied patient will then begin to shop for the competitors. Thus, hospitals not only lose the unsatisfied patient to the competitor, but even worse, he will probably take many other potential clients with him/her. To overcome such difficulties, healthcare service providers should focus on strengthening communication systems. Patient counselling is one of the strongest tools that will help get satisfied patients and retain regular patients. It is always recommended to have separate patient counsellor for each specialty department to promote specialty service in the set-up. The following are the benefits that the hospitals will get, once they place a patient counsellor at the hospital:
Alternatively, to keep in touch with the inpatients and to ensure their presence for surgery, communication can also be done by sending post cards (written reminder) periodically or by sending Short Message Service (SMS). In this way, hospitals can retain their regular patients and have healthy and better relations with them.
The writer is Hospital Administrator,
Chettinad Medical College Hospitals and Research Centre, Chennai.