Hospitals Improve Service With Real-Time Patient Interaction

In the big (and getting bigger) business that is institutional health care, concepts of customer loyalty, advanced interactivity, and service automation are becoming just as important as daily rounds. Customer service systems once reserved for posh getaway locations are now springing up over hospital beds. Skylight Systems' GetWellTV is a cousin of the TV-based host management services offered in many hotels. It features in-room gaming and movie options, as well as room service and maintenance requests and even live Internet connectivity in some locations. A special set-top box can be attached to an in-room television or other display device. While not meant to replace the traditional nurse call button, the service handles many of the requests that otherwise might go to a busy health care professional, such as ordering additional linens or reporting uncomfortable room temperature. "It's giving the control back [to the patients] to initiate those requests without putting on a [nurse] call... they can feel that they're bothering the nurses if they're too busy," says Betty Stephenson, director of hospitality services at Scottsdale Health Care. The two-hospital Scottsdale Health Care system has employed GetWellTV in its patient rooms for more than two years, charging a modest daily fee for the various services and seeing tremendous uptake. "Nursing loves it, and the patients and family members love it, and we get great participation," Stephenson says. She credits the system with providing 5,000 service recovery opportunities every month that might have otherwise waited for a postcare poll, or might never have been aired at all. Skylight integrates its systems with multiple providers of customer research and feedback, recently signing a partnership with Gallup to use the consulting organization's Patient Quality System (PQS) methodology on its terminals. Gallup provides a research-tested set of service metrics to patients, and provides daily reporting to hospital-service unit managers. "Because the report is submitted on a daily basis, there is an ability to recognize those employees singled out, either for immediate gratification, or if the patient's response is [negative], the manager has an opportunity to address it right then and there," says Cecilia Saez, consultant with Gallup Health Care Group. The PQS system allows patients to be polled while the hospital experience is still ongoing, and allows family members to act as a proxy if the patient is not recovered enough to accurately answer questions. GetWellTV's on-demand video capabilities also allow rehabilitation or disease education films to be shown immediately, on a patient's schedule and without any intervention from staff. Previously, Scottsdale managed its films through a fixed-schedule closed circuit TV network and by bringing VCRs and tapes to rooms as necessary, a cumbersome process. Scottsdale's patient surveys have led it to accelerate the pace of enabling self-service requests through the interactive system. "It prioritized our initiatives, some of which weren't even on the drawing board until we started evaluating information we were getting back from patients," Stephenson says. Automated temperature control is next on the hospital system's list of improvements, along with a fully interactive, 24-hour room-service menu. "We're market-driven, and [increasing] our percent market share is money, and it has been hugely successful." Related articles: Vertical Focus: Healthcare Organizations Turn to CRM to Cure Their Ailing Customer Strategies
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