The Customer is Always Right: New Ways of Seeing Hospital Patients


Hospitals see a lot of patients come and go, and it’s inevitable that they all start blending together after a while. They need to ensure that their administrators see patients as more than data on spreadsheets. It’s essential that hospitals provide good service and that everyone within the organization maintains perspective. It’s most important for administrators to do that since they set the example, but knowing what to avoid doesn’t answer the question of what to do.

The Changing Landscape

The Affordable Care Act will increase the demand for medical services. This is one reason that patient care needs to be reconsidered. The Act will bring in more patients to the hospital, so it is crucial for administration to be ready to deal with more volume. The Act also means that hospitals will be renegotiating the terms of care for many current patients. Hospital managers will need to become very adaptable and they will need to take many of their established systems and rearrange them to accommodate new patient policies.

New Modes of Listening

It’s common to hear “the customer is always right” in retail businesses and other fields, but how can that be applied in a medical setting? People will in many cases be entitled to the care they desire under the new laws, and it means that patients will stay longer and require more attention and resources regardless of the practices individual hospitals adopt.

With the recent interest in reforming healthcare, many hospitals have implemented patient surveys that measure patient satisfaction. What they are finding is that patient satisfaction doesn’t actually equate to quality healthcare. That said, with the recent impacts on Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance changes, hospitals have a vested interest in keeping their patients’ loyalty. And, in fact, insurance companies are now using patient survey feedback as a way of deciding which hospitals they will cover for their customers.

When the Patient is Wrong

In customer service, the motto, “the customer is always right” won’t usually get anyone killed. In a hospital, however, it is sometimes important to disappoint a patient when their health is at stake. The problem is that patients can have some difficulty separating real problems from minor aches and psychosomatic symptoms. It will be important to balance compassion with pragmatism; hospital staff will need to learn how to guide patients to the right conclusions instead of butting heads with them. All problems should be treated seriously until proven otherwise. This attitude will be important for reasons beyond customer satisfaction; electronic medical records will become mandatory within a few years, and if patients fail to get adequate care under an administrator’s watch, he is the one who will have to answer for it.

Despite some of the obstacles that will come with the healthcare changes, the future is exciting. More people will get healthcare than ever before. Costs will go down for everyone and the population will become healthier as a result. Healthcare administrators will have their work cut out for them, but it’s nothing that can’t be overcome with a bit of elbow grease and a lot of love.


Author Val Newman blogs about the healthcare industry. If you’re interested in taking part in the administrative side of of hospital workings, USC now offers a masters in health care administration degree you may be interested in.