Is There Room at the Inn? How Healthcare Can Be More Hospitable

Hospitality is both an art and a science, where being of service to others in a friendly, welcoming manner is the foundational principle of true hospitality. The term hospitality extends beyond the traditional hospitality industry. Today, hospitality is a key part of the service economy. The service economy is comprised of any business that engages with customers. These businesses must use a Hospitality Approach to ensure that customers feel welcomed, valued, and appreciated.

One industry that must strive to be more hospitable is the healthcare industry. Founder and CEO of SGEi, Shane Green, recently published an article on Forbes explaining how different hospitality axioms or truths apply to the healthcare industry. When applied, these axioms help deliver a better patient experience. The healthcare industry has been so focused on results that the industry has neglected to deliver the right experience to its patients. So, here are some ways in which the healthcare industry can be more hospitable and enhance the patient experience:

  • Execute Key Pieces of the Patient Experience: Just like in hospitality, if the steps of service are not executed properly, the customer experience is comprised, resulting in service failures and decreased satisfaction. The basic steps of the patient experience must be delivered upon to ensure to the optimal patient experience. As one PX leader explains, “There is a BIG difference between “satisfaction” [aka CCAHPS scores] and the patient experience. Satisfaction is when a patient doesn’t like the food…a failure in patient experience is more like not feeding the patient at all. Patient’s basic needs [like eating] need to be met. We must focus on being sure we get the meal to them before worrying what it tastes like. Unfortunately, many surveys are focusing solely on satisfaction scores to form their patient experience. When they do, they are ignoring a large part of the equation…and the meal might not make it to the patient.”
  • Strive for Patient Happiness: The healthcare industry is unique in that most customers are seeking service because of a problem or issue. This creates a challenge for healthcare providers as they are often serving customers (i.e., patients) that are anxious, scared, frustrated, and not happy about the situation. Rethinking the traditional approach to serving patients can significantly help shift patients’ mood and overall experience. As Elizabeth Upham, Director of Patient Experience at Capital Health System explains, “We always look for people with either retail or hospitality experience when hiring for our PX team because they already have the skills and sensibility that go with great customer relations. They’ve had the opportunity to experience the importance of keeping the customer “happy” rather than “alive,” so they are great at reminding caregivers it’s not enough to just save lives…it’s also our responsibility to make the whole experience soothing and satisfying.”
  • Serve with Empathy: Empathy is at the core of hospitality. Empathy means fully understanding how the other person is feeling, which can be difficult in healthcare as many providers may have not been in similar situations as their patients. Understanding and communicating that understanding to patients is key. However, empathy must also be taken a step further. As Miriam Melgar-Atanaya at Dignity Health in Los Angeles explains, “Empathy equals compassion in action.” Care providers must not only have compassion, but also ensure that proper action is taken to best serve the patient. This can be challenging as care providers are under pressure in many different aspects, but ultimately, taking the time to listen and serve each patient is what makes for a better patient experience. Remember that patients’ perception of their experience is their reality. So, even if all parts of the experience went well, if the patient doesn’t feel a sense of empathy or compassion, they may be less satisfied. As Tom Scaletta, President of explains, “The perception of quality is equal to satisfaction.” So, focus on infusing empathy in every interaction so patients feel connected, cared for, and satisfied with their experience.

The healthcare industry must serve with a hospitality approach throughout all areas of the patient experience if the industry wants to see a marked improvement in patient satisfaction.

At SGEi, we focus on delivering the right training and tools to ensure your healthcare organization is delivering the best patient experience possible. Connect with us today to learn how we can help.

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