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Is healthcare a customer service business?

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I read an article the other day that discussed patient satisfaction scores vs. physicians’ decision-making capabilities, and I found myself reflecting on my career path.

I find it somewhat ironic that many years ago in a career far, far away, I worked in customer service. As of late, it seems my life has come full circle. Let’s face it, the “business” of healthcare has become so warped that sometimes I wonder if the policymakers have forgotten that the state of one’s health cannot be sold or managed like a perishable good?

The merit of success and failure of a facility, entity or professional that delivers health care has been whittled down to patient satisfaction scores. In order to be successful or “high ranking,” your patient satisfaction scores have to be above average, if not approaching a perfect 100%.

Somehow, it no longer has anything to do with the decision-making capabilities of those delivering health care, but about how well you pleased your patients. Did you provide good customer service? Were they happy with what you did for them? Do or did they like you?

While I completely agree that the positive relationship you create, develop and maintain with your patients is vitally necessary to great patient care, it’s not the most important aspect of patient care, nor is it a good measure of quality.

The slogan “The customer is always right” is what keeps coming to my mind. Our customers (patients) are not always right. In fact, they are quite often wrong.

I’m not going to banter over right vs. wrong, since the delivery of health care is not a simple, direct concept. The human condition is just too complex. Optimum wellness requires the knowledge and specialized training of experts and professionals well-versed in addressing those health challenges. Just because they have a horrible bedside manner does not make them bad at their job.

What’s the point of all my rambling?

The next time you seek the assistance of a healthcare professional, facility or entity, be sure to look at more than just their patient satisfaction scores. My health and yours are more than just a durable good.

Article of interest: “Patient satisfaction: When a doctor’s judgment risks a poor rating.” 


Sean Dent

Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing. After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital. He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).

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One Response to Is healthcare a customer service business?

  1. Christina RN

    I completely agree with this article. As a psychiatric nurse, I find it difficult to believe that patients with severe mental illness, who are often court-ordered into treatment, and who are at times medicated against their will in order to protect themselves or others, are “grading” the performance of healthcare professionals based on whether they were “happy” with the services provided. Some of these angry, violent, severely disturbed patients will never be “happy” with anything we do, but we still try to do what is best for them every single day.