MK 671 Discussion 2

This forum will focus on one of the thorniest problems facing health care today- customer service.

Although none of the environments lampooned in these vignettes are health care, you get the intent (and they very well could be health care settings).

The problems listed below are intended to focus your attention on the very practical side of health care problems relating to customer service (see chapters 7 & 8 for context).  Hospitals, insurance companies, medical clinics, etc., all over America have ongoing task groups, cross-functional teams, and other initiatives designed to do one thing: improve customer service….yet the problem remains!  Furthermore, the “fix” seems more elusive in health care than in other sectors of the economy.

Here are some of the thornier, most intractable customer service problems in health care.  You will ALL have experienced one or several of these!

  1. Wait times at physician’s offices.  It seems there is an unwritten expectation here: you’re going to see the physician no less than one hour after your appointment time!  There is (in my experience) very little customer interaction or apology around this…it’s just “the way things are in health care.”
  2. Long admission processes, bouncing from one desk to another, often filling out the same information multiple times. 
  3. Fractured departmentalization in health insurance companies (or hospitals)…often, customers/patients inquiring about a payment or continued stay authorization find themselves directed to customer service for problem resolution, when the problem actually exists elsewhere….and there appears to be little communication between the functions.
  4. Confusing bills: consumer bills that arrive before the 3rd party payer has satisfied their obligations; bills that have confusing medical terminology, etc.
  5. Very long wait times in either emergency rooms, or lately, in their functional equivalent (often), ambulatory care centers (doc-in-a-box settings).

These are just a few of the real-world, practical issues facing health care (and more importantly, health care consumers) today.  I ask you to imagine you’re on a committee at any medium to large scale health care provider or payer, and promote several “fixes” for these problems.  Remember: these are problems that have been “fix resistant” to a large degree, so be forceful and creative!  Break paradigms!  While you’re at it, do some independent web research to dig deeper into customer service issues in health care….offer some best practice examples for us to chew on!