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High-touch health care

Technology has made our lives and our jobs easier and has redefined what it means to be a health care organization. Unfortunately, the down side to technological wonders like robotic surgeries, electronic medical records, tele-appointments and other advances is that the human element is sometimes replaced with technology.In an industry that requires the trust and comfort of those it helps, this can pose a significant obstacle in offering satisfactory care across all service lines. Sometimes patients simply desire face time with doctors, a personal phone call, someone to hold their hand throughout a difficult procedure.  Many hospitals are finding that the solution to this obstacle is to put purposeful effort into merging high-tech with high-touch approaches to offer exceptional care that’s highly marketable.

Take the Oklahoma Heart Hospital for instance. One of the most technically advanced health care organizations in the nation, OK Heart is also said to be one of the most hospitable. OK Heart has a 24-hour nurse-to-patient minimum ratio of 1 to 4. Nursing stations are set up to serve eight-room pods and each pod is self-sufficient with its own supplies and refreshment area. Admissions are completed in the patient’s room. The hospital lobby was modeled after a hotel lobby, complete with concierge desk and grand piano. Unless medically necessary, patients don’t have to eat at designated times but rather order “room service” at any time of the day. Signage is limited to encourage patient or guest and staff interaction. And when someone isn’t happy, OK Heart has been known to reimburse families for gas or put family members up in a nearby hotel for free.

Patient satisfaction rates for OK Heart are through the roof when compared with similar hospitals, but it doesn’t end there. OK Heart shows nearly 100 percent compliance on several critical measures associated with cardiovascular conditions, outpacing the national averages in categories such as timely use of aspirin therapy to treat heart attack patients, according to Medicare Hospital Compliance.

Perhaps your health care organization is light years away from being able to offer this kind of care. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take efforts to find the balance between high-tech and high-touch right now. Consider a few easy ways to integrate this concept today:

Be friendly
Yes, it’s an obvious tip but all too often, frontline employees get caught up in day-to-day hustle and it’s easy to forget how much it means to someone when you offer a smile or say hello. Being friendly should extend beyond the niceties, too, to encompass friendliness outside of the care facility. For example, ask volunteers to send birthday cards and medical anniversary cards to patients throughout the year or make phone calls from time to time to check on the satisfaction of care.

Similarly, go above and beyond
All staff members should have the goal of not only providing outstanding care, but truly making the day of all patients and their guests whenever possible. Empower employees to offer this level of customer service by giving them the tools to do so, such as access to local resources and the autonomy to make customer service decisions as they see fit. Additionally, consider taking a note from OK Heart’s book and offering tangible compensation to make things right when customer service goes wrong, like a voucher for the gift shop or a gift certificate to a local restaurant. In most customer service situations, all anyone is looking for is an apology and an immediate and tangible consolation. Why should health care be any different?

Provide a “patient services” orientation
If it’s a patient’s first time visiting your health care organization, make sure they know what services are available to them. Consider holding regular orientation sessions that address these services, offer a tour of the facilities and the opportunity to meet key hospital or organization personnel. Give out information on who to call with what questions, tips for staying healthy and information on any insurance incentive programs or partnerships. Not only will it educate patients on their own care, but it will provide rapport and launch relationships that are often missing for many in the health care setting. Before patients leave these sessions, allow them a takeaway to keep your organization top of mind like branded pill organizers or mini first aid kits.

Offer a personal touch
Along those same lines, once patients return for care be sure to offer them amenities that help them to feel welcomed and appreciated as more than a number. Things like welcome kits for overnight guests that include a personalized welcome note, information about procedures, bios of staff that will be taking care of them, maps of the hospital and waiting areas, lists of amenities available to patients and families and perhaps even a guide to the area—such as video rental stores, restaurants that deliver and more. Other items, like beauty products, plush throws or slippers that can be taken home, are always appreciated.

At the end of the day, health care doesn’t have to be high-tech or high-touch—it can be both. Following this trend offers patients a comforting environment that will no doubt match the exceptional care your organization is already providing.

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Miller, Julie. “High-Tech, High-Touch – The Oklahoma Heart Hospital Emerged from a Vision to Deliver Cutting-edge Care the Old-fashioned Way – Managed Healthcare Executive.” Managed Healthcare Executive – Managed Care Trends and Analysis – Benefit Strategies for Medicare/Medicaid and Commerical Populations. Web. 02 Aug. 2010.


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