Money Matters Practice Management Customer Focus in Health Care
Customer Focus in Health Care
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The Australian health care system offers a great level of choice to patients. Care is not just required from medical practitioners, it is also required at the reception desk. I am always impressed with medical receptionists who convey professionalism and warmth in how they greet patients. And my respect for them grows tenfold when I see questions, complaints and fear dealt with in a compassionate and sensitive way.

Faced with the challenge of booking systems, paperwork, payment processing, telephone queries and queuing patients, maintaining warmth, sympathy, and understanding is difficult. However, a great deal of harm can be done with terse responses and lack of empathy. Some patients will choose to go elsewhere. In some unfortunate instances, inappropriate comments can have medico-legal implications.

The patient is paying for a highly personal service. Yet two key forms of relationship management – strong customer service skills and marketing – have a tendency to be viewed askance in health care.
Connecting the practice with your local community requires strong marketing expertise, which will drive the added benefit of increased revenue. Running a financially successful practice is essential so money can be directed into overheads that include favourable wages, training, technology and facilities. No one wants to sit in a dirty waiting room, overseen by surly receptionists who feel they are underpaid, in a poorly equipped practice with stressed out GPs.

Customer service forms both a starting point and basic tenet of the medical reception role. This needs to be defined and managed in a variety of ways – how recruitment is conducted, defining jobs, training, and managing work performance.

Interviewing skills, job descriptions, inductions and performance reviews are tools that can improve service provision or workplace performance. Interestingly, these tools form part of the 4th edition of the RACGP Standards for General Practice. To meet accreditation requirements, these areas must be addressed.

Leading by example is the best way to reinforce best practices in the workplace but the gap between the consulting room and the front desk can be wide, so using these tools ensures your workplace is managing relationships with patients as best it can.