Patient Care vs. Customer Service


Contributed by staff writer Amanda Fraraccio

This month is the final installment of our look at value-based health care trends.  One of the key transitions in this movement is how patients are viewed and treated by providers.  Many health care entities are now asking themselves “how do we merge quality patient care with improved customer service?”  In recent history health care providers have not seen their industry through the lens of customer service. Patients are patients not customers. Patients themselves have felt relatively powerless in their ability to change the quality of their experiences.  When insurance was covering the majority of health care costs some providers felt they had to cater to them, and patients were at their mercy.  While much of that system is still in place, there is an increase in the use of high deductible healthcare plans and patients have begun to see themselves as paying customers who want better experiences.  Patients are asking for:

·         Trusted advice backed by data from skilled providers

·         Simplified processes including less paperwork and less bureaucracy

·         Personalized care not a one-size-fits-all treatment

·         Digitized systems for increased efficiency (Astute Solutions, 2016)

However, health care is a multifaceted industry and the needs of patients vary from preventative care and minor illnesses and injuries, to chronic disease, acute emergencies, and life-threatening situations.  The very nature of the industry prohibits healthcare from fitting neatly into the “customer is king” service model.  It seems there has been a disconnect between what industry leaders believe will raise patient satisfaction ratings and what it is patients really seek.  Many executives have spent a great deal of money:

·         building new facilities

·         providing more private rooms

·         increasing the quality of food service

·         giving an overall appearance of a luxury hotel

From a patient perspective navigating illness can be a very confusing time, the more serious the illness the more vulnerable the patient.  At a time when one is most vulnerable there can be the need for a patient to make crucial, complex decision, often in a very short amount of time. The “services” patients seek require a level of trust in providers not seen in other industries (Torpie, 2014). Reflect on the last time you were sick or injured.  If a person is in pain, frightened, and vulnerable is it luxury amenities they are seeking? More likely a patient wants:

·         skilled staff

·         responsive and compassionate care

·         to feel safe and valued

·         to be an active participant in their personalized care (Torpie, 2014).

Instead of paying luxury prices to have posh surroundings, patients seem to be satisfied with adequate surroundings if the focus is on high quality care.  Providers who are not only skilled in their work, but also know how to connect with patients and care for them emotionally as well as physically can earn gratitude.  A grateful patient tends to have a much higher level of satisfaction with their care (Torpie, 2014). Possibly a more efficient use of health-care funds is investing in staff and their resources rather than amenities.

For a more in depth look at patient care vs. customer service including what is required of providers visit:





Astute Solutions. (2016, October 19). Retrieved from Astute:

Torpie, K. (2014). Customer Service vs. Patient Care. Patient Experience Journal, 6-8.