Stop the games!

Rajagopal December 05, 2017

"Mirror, mirror on the wall. Which is the best hospital in this area?"

Turns out, the mirror is biased and programmed to always say the same thing.

Many hospitals, we observe, fall into this trap. Feedback mechanisms exist, not to actually listen to the patients but to hear what the hospital management wants to hear. If you are consistently seeing positive feedback with patient satisfaction index scores over 80, here are five ways you could be gaming your feedback system, may be unconsciously.

1. You are asking the wrong question. What is the best known predictor of customer loyalty? Net Promoter Score - a system developed exclusively to measure customer loyalty. It has what is dubbed as the "Ultimate Question". Some hospitals have adopted the system, but little do they realise that it depends heavily on the Ultimate question being asked exactly as it should be. If your interviewer asks it any other way, for example, how many marks would you give us out of 10?, you will get the wrong answer.

2. Your patient response rate is lower than 80%. Response rate is a good indicator of how engaged your patients are with your hospital. Are they willing to spend time and give you feedback? Low response rate could also indicate a selection bias by your staff - they only approach patients who they are sure will give a good feedback.

3. You do not have an interviewer, or your designated interviewer is requested to handle multiple roles during the day. Kiosks, feedback forms left with patients, SMS requests for feedback - they cannot give you the right picture. Elicit it from the patients with skilled interviewers.

4. Unskilled interviewers. Interviewing patients is a skill. Your interviewer has to connect with patients, be objective, elicit patient emotion, observe body language and record what they see and hear. Walking in to check if everything is OK is not sufficient.

5. Your organisation culture may prevent patients from opening up and giving a frank feedback. While the feedback is requested, your staff undermine the system by explicitly or implicitly indicating to the patient that only high scores are to be given.

Do not short change the feedback process. Without a good feedback mechanism, you have no way of understanding and managing patient reviews on your hospital after they walk out. And unlike the good old days, today, even a single disgruntled patient posting online means your carefully built brand image is tarnished.

If you really want to know where your hospital stands with respect to patient loyalty, our one day review of your process may yield insights to help you improve it.