Capital Health launches customer service program

Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 11:00am

“Our patients have a right to exceptional service. Every time.” Chris Power, president and CEO of Capital Health

Capital Health is launching a customer service training program for all employees, physicians, learners and volunteers. The program is aimed at improving patient experiences.

“For many years, patients and families have been telling us that we provide excellent clinical care,” says Power. “They have also told us that how we serve them - how we listen, speak and respond - is every bit as important as clinical excellence.”

Capital Health regularly receives letters of thanks from patients and families who have benefited from exceptional care and service. Yet every day, the organization also hears from patients who experience the opposite of good service -a lack of empathy or a breakdown in communication.

On average, 156 incidents (most of which can be categorized as patient complaints) are reported each month to Capital Health’s Patient Representative Service. The single greatest theme of these reports is poor communication, such as lack of explanation about diagnosis, procedures and treatment options, as well as lack of empathy from staff. To learn more, please view the Patient Experience Reporting System Annual Report (April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013) contained below.

Evidence shows that focusing on the patient experience - and not solely on clinical excellence - benefits patient satisfaction and contributes to a culture of safety (Institute for Healthcare Improvement).

Sandi Kidston, long-time patient at Capital Health, has experienced both excellent and poor service within the health care system. She says often the quality of the experience comes down to the little things.

“Sometimes, it is as simple as being a good listener. Relaxing, not folding your arms and genuinely caring can build working relationships.”

While providing good customer service might seem like common sense, Capital Health contends that it’s a skill and like any skill, has to be learned and practiced.

“As an organization, we need to provide the training, tools and supports that enable staff to demonstrate these behaviours every day,” says Power.

Capital Health has adopted the Cleveland Clinic’s Communicate with Heart™ customer service training program. In 2008, the Cleveland Clinic, which had long been recognized for clinical excellence, undertook a deliberate cultural shift to focus on service. In just four years, they saw dramatic results:

  • In 2008, Cleveland ranked in the 55 percentile for patient satisfaction in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Survey (HCAPS). In 2012, patient satisfaction had increased to the 92 percentile.
  • Between 2008 and 2012, staff engagement increased from the 38 percentile to the 57 percentile

Training sessions for staff began in late January 2014, with more than 300 people having attended the first of two learning modules.

Capital Health is also working to embed this service focus into existing structures - job postings, hiring, performance reviews and recognition.

Kidston is excited to see Capital Health place such a priority on service. “As a patient, I am a member of my health care team,” she says. “This model of customer service supports open communication, encouraging patients, families and the health care team to work together to improve health.”