Voice of the Customer.. Or is Voice of the Patient Better?

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Since opening our doors a little more than a year ago, we have tried every day to create a special treatment center that people want to come to for exceptionally high quality, individualized care at an affordable cost. Built in to our DNA is a ferocious desire to continuously focus on getting better at what we do in order to achieve our goal. We believe this is the only way we will survive in a highly competitive market, particularly given our desire to remain independent of anything or anyone who could get in the way of a laser like focus on quality of care. We have to want to be the best at what we do every single day, and willing to make changes when changes need to be made if it means our patients will benefit.

Outcome surveys and measurements help us accumulate and respond to the data we need in order to operate in this manner. Another arguably more effective and much simpler “tool” is just listening and paying very close attention to our patients when they provide thoughts and feedback. “Add a water cooler, we need a process group on Fridays before the weekend, the group size is too big, we need more “skills” groups”… This is information we must have in order to remain focused on continuous improvement. Fortunately we have a culture which encourages and supports all of us who have thoughts and ideas which can make us better as a recovery community. Pray this never changes.

Our patients are our customers. They are the ones whose interests must always come first and they are the ones who will either make or break the future of SCH. We know this, and we respect this. Our relationship with our patients is a professional relationship where very specific and predetermined protocol guides the nature of what is expected from both parties in the exchange. We provide the service, they hopefully get better and they pay us ideally for the value we are providing to them and their families.

When collecting patient satisfaction surveys last week one of our patients was insulted when referred to as a “customer”. To this person, the word, “customer” seemed to imply that it was just about the money… It is not all about the money but money is being exchanged and with that comes responsibilities inherent in such an exchange. The word, “patient”, on the other hand, implies “they” are sick and “we” are not… Yes our patients are here for help and our clinical care team is here to provide that help but we are all in this together and at the end of the day we are all just people who are doing our best with what we were given to survive in what can often be a challenging and beautiful world.

There is a lot written on the pluses and minuses of using the words, “patient” or “customer” when referring to people who receive healthcare services. Attached below is something from Yale’s Business School of Management on the topic which is interesting. Read it HERE

Whether we use the word person, patient or customer, the fact of the matter is we all need input from those we serve in order to be the best that we can be. It is critical not only to our success as a business but more importantly for patients and their families, which at the end of the day is our guiding principle. Asking questions is only part of it. Having the courage to change the things we can is what makes the difference.