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Run Your Hospital (or Practice) Like a Hotel

By Edward Leigh, MA

As a frequent traveler, I stay in hotels all the time. In my work as a healthcare speaker / consultant, I also spend a lot of time in hospitals and medical practices. The differences in how I am treated at a hotel versus a hospital / practice is incredibly dramatic!

Of course, many people would say it is not fair to compare since you are talking about two different environments. With hotels you are dealing with well people who are on vacation or traveling for business. In hospitals and medical practices, you are dealing with people are often very ill. With that line of reasoning, if anything, than hospitals and medical practices should be treating people even better than hotels! However, people are treated vastly better in hotels.

The Opening

Hotel: (with a big smile) "Good afternoon. Welcome to XYZ Hotel. How may I assist you?"
Hospital / medical practice: (with a lukewarm smile, if you are lucky!) "Name and insurance cards."

With most hospitals and practices I encounter, patients are rarely greeted with enthusiasm or energy. When I have been a patient, instead of feeling welcome, I often feel like am a bother to people. Greet patient warmly with a smile and ask, "How can assist you?" Never ask, "What do you want?" That question is harsh and cold.

The healthcare environment is very intimidating and people feel overwhelmed. A warm greeting can make a world of difference to a patient.

Responding to Phone Calls

Hotel: It will be my pleasure to help you. Is there anything else that I could help you with?"
Hospital / medical practice: "Hold on, let me check."

Let's say a patient is calling to confirm an appointment, an ideal response would be, "Mrs. Jones, your appointment is on September 18 at 1:30 PM. Is there anything else I can help you with?" If the person says they have no other questions, an appropriate closing is, "Thank you for choosing ABC Hospital. We look forward to seeing you on the on September 18th."

Always use proper telephone etiquette: answer the telephone within three rings, with a smile in your voice. Use a pleasant greeting; state your name and department, and say, "How may I assist you?" When necessary, ask the person calling if he/she can hold. Do not place them on hold without their agreement.

Use of Names

(after answering a question)
Hotel: "Mrs. Stevens, the business center is the next door on the left."
Hospital / medical practice: "You’ll be in Exam Room 3."

Of course, in healthcare, we always have to check on names to be sure we have the right person. However, in addition to those circumstances, we should also use patient names in our conversation to make them feel more welcome. Hotel employees usually use a person's name in the conversation. Hospitals and practices should adopt this same strategy. For example, after taking a patient to an examination room say, "Mrs. Jones, the doctor will be with you shortly." Adding the name, "Mrs. Jones," gives the conversation a warmer tone and personalizes your comments.

The Closing

Hotel: "Thank you for staying with us. We hope you had a pleasant stay."
Hospital / medical practice: "Sign these papers."

Healthcare is a highly competitive field and there are many qualified professionals that can treat patients. You must value your patients and thank them for choosing your hospital / practice. At the closing, thank them.

If you don’t treat your patients with kindness and respect, someone else will.

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