Thursday, May 09, 2013

The most neglected person in the hospital

Hospitals are designed for doctors. They have been created so that the doctor can collect all his patients under one roof , and provide medical care to them in a setting which maximizes his productivity and efficiency. They provide the doctor with easy access to medical equipment, labs, technology, consultants , specialists, nurses and assistants. Unfortunately , hospitals are not very friendly places for patients , who will often feel lost and uncomfortable , because they are scary places ! The good news is that a lot of work is being done on improving the patient experience within the hospital. Studies prove that improving patient experiences is good, both for the patient and for the hospital and for the medical staff.

However, even more neglected than the poor patient is the hospital visitor. Most hospital will allow visitors only during specific visiting hours , at which time the hospital overflows because there are so many other visitors who are forced to come to visit the same time. Most visitors are treated as a necessary evil . There are lots of do's and don'ts as to what they are allowed to do and what they are not. They are usually treated as dirt by the staff, which is why most visitors are quite intimidated about going to the hospital.

Actually this is such a huge opportunity which hospital management is neglecting , by not focusing on the needs of the patient’s visitors ! Visitors need to be treated as a valued guest in a hospital setting , because all visitors are going to be potential patients at some point . Hospital visitors are very aware of their own mortality , and are much more likely to be receptive about their health and illness prevention . It always amazes me why hospital managements don't recognize this ; and why they don't spend a little bit of time , energy and effort in making visitors feel welcome. This is an extremely worthwhile investment,  because when these visitors fall ill (as all of us will some day ), they are likely to remember the hospital which treated them with respect and care , and are far more likely to select this hospital for their healthcare needs. Hospitals have a captive population of visitors, but instead of capitalizing on this , they often neglected and ignore – or even worse, ill treat them !. This is a huge opportunity which is waiting to be exploited - and the good news is it's very easy to engage this population. Thus , while they are waiting, they can be given educational materials to read; and patient education videos could provide information about the medical services the hospital provides. Smart hospitals could give all visitors a free health education DVD – or a book on how to take care of common medical problems. This is a great branding exercise – and is a very cost effective way of acquiring new patients for the future !

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