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Health Care

Mystery Shopping Home Healthcare

Mystery shopping audits are an excellent way for home healthcare providers to gain insight into the level of customer service that prospective patients and their families experience during appointments. In fact, many professional medical organizations are actually encouraging the use of mystery shoppers.

In 2008, a report from a professional medical association endorsed mystery shopping as a way to improve patient care. The report said “physicians have an ethical responsibility to engage in activities that contribute to continual improvements in patient care. One method for promoting such quality improvement is through the use of secret shopper ‘patients’ who have been appropriately trained to provide feedback about physician performance in the clinical setting.”

Because of the deep level of trust that patients and their families wish to establish, the home healthcare industry can benefit greatly from >mystery shopping audits. During home healthcare visits, a licensed nurse will visit the patient’s home and assist them with their daily needs — bathing, meals, chores and ensuring patients are taking their prescribed medications. The patient and their family must be able to trust the home healthcare agency, and that trust will begin during the initial meeting.

When it comes to evaluating a home health care agency, mystery shopping audits provide invaluable third-party feedback. The mystery shopping auditor poses as a family member of a prospective patient and inquire about services and attending appointments. During these appointments, the mystery shopping auditor will not just evaluate the level customer service that the agency provides; rather, it will evaluate every client facing aspect of the business. Does the staff work to establish a solid level of trust? Are they informative and helpful? Is the base of the operations well-maintained?

In addition to the standard client-facing aspects of the business, there are plenty of obstacles that can affect patient satisfaction with home health care agencies. This may include scheduling issues, pricing discrepancies, brusque staff, lack of communication and confusing paperwork. All of these aspects of the home healthcare agency should be streamlined in order to help develop a level of trust with prospective patients.

The success of a home health care agency is dependent on customer satisfaction; if patients are not happy with the level of service they receive, they will go elsewhere. Mystery shopping audits for health care services can also take into account the agency’s handling and measurement of customer concerns. Additionally, a mystery shopping audit can provide insight that aids home healthcare services in identifying problem areas early, allowing them to respond appropriately to make sure small problems do not become large-scale compliance issues.

Because much of the business relies on trust, home healthcare agencies must continually re-evaluate their customer experience management plan through mystery shopping audits. Not only can these be extremely helpful in providing insight from the customer’s perspective, but they can also help to identify potential compliance issues before they arise.

Health Care

Mystery Shopping Home Healthcare

Mystery shops can not only help home health care providers ensure that patients are pleased with the level of care they are receiving, but they can also help to ensure that the service is in compliance with state licensing and operations requirements, ultimately preventing potentially dangerous — and costly — compliance issues.

In 2008, a well-known medical association endorsed mystery shops as a way to improve patient care. Here is what they said: “Physicians have an ethical responsibility to engage in activities that contribute to continual improvements in patient care. One method for promoting such quality improvement is through the use of secret shopper ‘patients’ who have been appropriately trained to provide feedback about physician performance in the clinical setting.”

When it comes to evaluating a home health care agency, mystery shops can provide invaluable feedback from a patients’ perspective. Mystery shops for home health care agencies will not just evaluate the level customer service that the agency provides; rather, it will evaluate every client facing aspect of the business. There are plenty of obstacles that can affect patient satisfaction with home health care agencies, such as scheduling issues, brusque staff, lack of communication and confusing paperwork.

Mystery shops will also focus on the home health care agency’s staff. Whether a certified nursing assistant or a registered nurse, the primary function of a home health care agency’s staff is to make sure that patients are happy, comfortable and feeling supported not only physically, but also emotionally. The success of a home health care agency is dependent on customer satisfaction; if patients are not happy with the level of service they are receiving, they will go elsewhere.

Mystery shops for health care services will also take into account the agency’s handling and measurement of customer concerns. Unlike other companies and organizations, home healthcare services are legally required by the state licensing agencies to document customer concerns. Mystery shops can provide insight that aids home healthcare services in identifying problem areas early, allowing them to respond appropriately to make sure small problems do not become large incidents.

It is important to remember to continually re-evaluate a home healthcare agency’s customer experience management plan by conducting mystery shopping audits. Not only can these be extremely helpful in gauging the success of your plan as they provide insight from the customer’s perspective, but they can also help identify potential compliance issues before they arise.

Home health care agencies can glean plenty of useful data from mystery shops. By analyzing the results of the mystery shops, an office can start implementing some changes to their approach to customer service. By getting insight into the patient’s perspective, home health care agencies can proactively make the necessary changes to give patients the best medical care possible.

Health Care

Mystery Shopping Home Healthcare

Customer experience management in assisted living centers is more than just making sure the residents are happy with their day-to-day living situation. Not only is it important to make sure the children of the residents are happy — since they are the primary decision makers — it is also a legal requirement to monitor their satisfaction when it comes to state licensing and operations requirements.

Remember that customer experience management is much farther reaching than simple customer service; it should stretch into every aspect of an assisted living center, from operations and finance, to marketing and customer service. And the customer experience management needs to be unified across all those departments — as well as maintenance, housekeeping, and food service — for the center to be truly successful and effective.

First, consider customer experience management from the residents’ perspective. All assisted living centers hire people that seem to care deeply about the people they serve, from the residents themselves to the family members who visit them. Assisted living centers strive to provide excellent care from their nurses, attendants and other staff members. The staff also works to make sure the beds are comfortable, the accommodations are welcoming, and they serve good and nutritious food. They even care for their emotional wellness, by making sure there are plenty of activities and outings for the residents to be happy. In this case, the staff’s primary function is making sure the residents are happy and satisfied with the facility.

Just as important is the residents’ children’s satisfaction with their parents’ experience. Assisted living centers should take care to keep them apprised of their relatives’ overall health and happiness. As part of their customer experience management, they need to communicate regularly, through personalized communications and email newsletters.

Another important part of the customer experience management system is how they handle complaints and negative experiences. Every company and organization has them, so it does not make sense for a center to assume they will be different. They also cannot afford to adopt a “take it as it comes” attitude about dealing with incidents. A good customer experience management will at least have guidelines and procedures in place to deal with these complaints.

Customer experience management and measurement can be very challenging in an assisted living center. Unlike other companies and organizations, it is more than just something that is nice to do for customers, it is actually a legal requirement by the state licensing agencies. But by having a good management system in place, the assisted living centers are able to spot trouble areas early and respond appropriately to make sure small problems do not become large incidents.

This is why it is important for assisted living centers to consider working with professional mystery shoppers and market research companies, as well as professionals who are skilled in developing and training on customer experience management systems.

Health Care

Mystery Shopping Home Healthcare

Mystery shopping is a great way to explore how well a medical practice or doctor’s office is really doing when it comes to customer service. Visiting the doctor or other medical practice offices can be time-consuming, and not many people are exactly thrilled to be going to the doctor.

Oftentimes, the problems can be issues like sour to downright rude office staff, long wait times, crowded waiting rooms, even longer wait times once the patient is in the exam room and cold hands instead of gentle and caring ones. Surprisingly, there can be a disconnect when it comes to having the patient disclose why he or she will not be coming back to that doctor or recommending that doctor to a friend.

Mystery shopping can give the owners of a medical practice or doctor’s office a patient’s eye view as to how they are treated and what exactly goes on once they arrive at the office. Using a variety of different technologies available to mystery shopping personnel, clients can see the visit through video equipment, or hear what happens through an audio recording – both of which can easily be hidden in the mystery shopper’s clothes or on a bag that the mystery shopper is carrying.

Mystery shopping is done when a shopper makes an appointment as a new patient, and she records the experience to review in depth later, whether it is by video, audio, or just by memorization alone. The shopper will create a detailed report about her experience after the mystery shopping visit has been completed. Medical mystery shopping professionals have special training, however – they know that when a real patient comes in with a medical emergency, to remove themselves from the situation and allow the real patient to be seen and taken care of.

Some of the items that the medical mystery shopper may take note of include:

  • First impressions of the front desk – cleanliness (when visiting), friendliness of staff, ease of scheduling an appointment, and how well the staff handled the phone call.
  • How effective check-in procedures were.
  • How clean the office was.
  • The bedside manner of the doctor.
  • How effective and efficient the nurses were during the visit.
  • Amount of time they spent with the doctor.

Doctors and other medical practitioners are in positions of care with their patients, and if a patient feels they are not being cared for, they will leave, without a word of why. When patients leave, the practice begins to lose money and could close down. Mystery shopping will help identify the problem areas, so staff can work to improve them and keep patients satisfaction high.

Mystery shopping can help to give everyone a good idea as to what exactly goes on between the practitioner and his patients. Mystery shopping can give a doctor a feeling of being in the patients’ shoes, and better understand their experience.

Health Care

Mystery Shopping Home Healthcare

The most frequent objection we hear from doctors about mystery shopping is that it isn’t ethical. Well, that might have been a valid argument until 2008, when the American Medical Association itself went back on it. In June of that year, the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs endorsed mystery shoppers as a way for physicians to improve patient care. Here’s what they said: “Physicians have an ethical responsibility to engage in activities that contribute to continual improvements in patient care. One method for promoting such quality improvement is through the use of secret shopper ‘patients’ who have been appropriately trained to provide feedback about physician performance in the clinical setting.”

Essentially, if all information remains confidential in accordance with HIPAA and the shoppers don’t interfere with actual patients in emergency medical situations, using mystery shoppers is completely ethical and, in fact, recommended. So it’s time to get real, doctors.

A trip to the doctor’s office can be very stressful for patients, stemming from everything from the cost of care to missing work for an appointment, to the actual medical diagnoses they might receive. Providing good customer service and doing everything in your power to ensure a smooth visit will ease their stress as much as possible and keep them coming back to your practice.

Mystery shops can measure any number of things, such as how long shoppers are on hold to make an appointment, how friendly the receptionist is on the telephone and how prepared they are as patients when they walk in the doors. How are they treated in the waiting room? Is the paperwork process simple enough? Have they been informed about co-payments?

Once behind the waiting-room door, shoppers can comment on the professionalism and courtesy of the nurses, how long they have to wait for the doctor to arrive…they could even comment on how the gown feels or the temperature of the exam room. And, of course, they’ll be able to comment on the doctors’ bedside manner, too.

In practices that are less primary-care and more voluntary services, shoppers may also be able to comment on whether you’re hard selling additional choice-based services, pressuring them unnecessarily or denying them proper care because they aren’t interested in those extras.

Doctors, you need to realize that you’re not only providing an important service, but you’re also running a business that serves patients. Mystery shopping could be an important key to keeping those patients coming to your practice.

Health Care

Mystery Shopping Home Healthcare

When you’re running a senior care facility, you’re not just running a group living environment. Families have enlisted you to provide proper care for very important family members who need extra help getting through their days. Your job is incredibly important and must be approached with sensitivity, attention and care.

Selecting the perfect facility for those family members is a stressful experience, and the relationships you start with families will build for years to come. It’s crucial to let them know from the start how important that relationship is to you and your business. So, in addition to the personal attention and care you provide to every potential and current client, consider adding simple text message–based surveys to gauge their feelings on their own time.

mobile phone text message

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From the first time a family visits your facility to see whether it’s the right fit for the senior in question, you can gauge their reactions to the housing and staff by either inviting them to take a short survey after their visit is complete — with a take-home postcard or signage placed throughout the facility — or pushing a message to them after they’ve left using the contact information they provided when they signed up for their tour or visit.

You can ask them anything from how they liked their tour guide to how they found the accommodations, or even their general feelings about the facility. There are even options for voice prompts in case you want to offer an opportunity for them to expand on their responses.

During family visit or activity days, consider placing tents on meal or activity tables that invite visiting family members to participate in a survey of how their relatives seem to be doing, whether they’re adjusting to a new environment or enjoying one in many years already spent in your facility. And, of course, if a family has had a particularly good experience, this is a way to hear from them firsthand who made their day better or improved the way they see your facility. The staff members responsible should absolutely be rewarded!

You know people have many choices for where to have senior family members looked after as they get older and need more assistance; using these quick, text-based surveys could allow you to turn on a dime and make adjustments to how you’re doing things as you learn of issues, instead of learning the hard way — through losing potential customers because of something you could have easily corrected.

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Health Care

Mystery Shopping Home Healthcare

As the protectors of overall health and well-being, doctors want their patients to leave the office feeling well-cared for. However, we’ve all stood in the patient’s shoes, and we know that process doesn’t come without its flaws — like scheduling issues, long wait times, and confusing paperwork. Most of us would agree that the experiences we have at the doctor’s office could be improved upon, and many health care professionals are being proactive about bettering that process.

When it comes to gaining a competitive edge, more and more practices are using mystery shoppers to better understand the patient experience. Mystery shopping can be beneficial to any business where good customer service is essential to success, and medical practices are, in effect, in the business of making people feel better.

So how does medical mystery shopping work? Basically, company appoints an unidentified, unannounced individual to schedule an appointment and experience the typical process of being a patient. Obviously, the health of real patients is of highest priority. That’s why medical mystery shoppers are trained to recognize when a patient comes in with an emergency and to remove themselves from the situation so that person can be seen.

Furthermore, the use of secret shopper patients in the medical industry is backed by the American Medical Association. In June 2008, the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs released a statement that said, “Physicians have an ethical responsibility to engage in activities that contribute to continual improvements in patient care. One method for promoting such quality improvement is through the use of secret shopper ‘patients’ who have been appropriately trained to provide feedback about physician performance in the clinical setting.”

The client works with the mystery shopping company to create evaluation tasks, but here are some typical items rated by secret shoppers:

  • Impression of front desk employee (phone skills, ease of appointment scheduling, overall attitude and helpfulness)
  • Effectiveness of check-in procedures
  • Cleanliness of office
  • Efficiency of nurses
  • Bedside manner of doctors
  • Adequacy of time spent with patient

Health care professionals can analyze mystery shopping research and start implementing some improvements to their practice. Some hospitals will hire mystery shoppers to act as a patient in a competitor’s office to gain perspective and competitive edge. By getting insight into the patient’s point of view and how employees perform, health care administrators can proactively make the necessary changes to give patients the best medical care possible.

Health Care

Mystery Shopping Home Healthcare

The mystery shopping industry tends to get pigeon-holed as useful for restaurants and retails stores only. Sometimes it’s easier to think of it this way: Mystery shopping can be beneficial to any business where customer service is essential to growth and success.

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...
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Chances are, that’s every business you can think of. So why should we be surprised that health care professionals are hiring mystery shopping companies to understand the patient experience? After all, aren’t they in the business of making us feel better?

However, as we all know, the road to feeling better doesn’t always run smooth when it comes to doctors’ offices. Chances are, when you call in to your family practitioner to make an appointment, you’re on hold for an interminable amount of time. And two months later, when you arrive promptly at your appointment, you’re met with more waiting. After filling out a phonebook of paperwork, your name is called and you are led back into a room. . . for more waiting.

Most of us would agree that the experiences we have at the doctor’s office could be improved upon. Wouldn’t you like to know, then, that health care professionals are being proactive about bettering this process?

We’re seeing more and more hospitals and private practices hiring mystery shopping companies to fine-tune the patient experience and gain an advantage against their competitors. In a medical mystery shop, trained, secret shopper ‘patients’ provide feedback about physician performance in a clinical setting. Here are some of the things they might look for:

  • Impression of front desk employee (phone skills, ease of appointment scheduling, overall attitude and helpfulness)
  • Effectiveness of check-in procedures
  • Cleanliness of office
  • Efficiency of nurses
  • Bed-side manner of doctors
  • Adequacy of time spent with patient

Health care professionals can then analyze the results and start implementing some improvements to the practice. By getting insight into the patient’s point of view and how its employees perform, hospitals and private practices can proactively make the necessary changes to give their patients the best care they can.

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Health Care

Mystery Shopping Home Healthcare

When people hear the phrase “mystery shopping,” they often think of it as solely market research for retail businesses. We’ve talked at length about how the data revealed from mystery shoppers can help a business to change their strategy, thus increasing visibility, traffic, and profits.

SAN RAFAEL, CA - MAY 20:  Six and twelve packs...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

However, mystery shopping can also play a very important role in helping law enforcement ensure the safety of individuals in their communities. After all, isn’t the police force is essentially in the “business” of ensuring the safety of their cities or towns? Mystery shopping is simply a tool to gauge where laws are or aren’t being upheld. One area where mystery shopping can be useful is in monitoring businesses selling age-restricted goods like alcohol. Although the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors is certainly not new, the way we can approach preventing it is. Law enforcement officials hire mystery shopping companies, who use teenagers to perform alcohol purchasing assignments. In these shops, the teens simply go into a liquor store or bar and attempt to buy alcohol or get served. They then report their findings — specifically, if they were asked for an ID to prove they were of legal age. The object of these exercises is to find out if clerks or bartenders will sell alcohol to someone who clearly looks underage.

So what happens when a shop is found selling alcohol to minors? There are a few options. On the light end of the spectrum, the store or bar is given a warning and a hefty fine. However, the punishment is not so simple for those found to be performing serious breaches of license. Some business owners will have their licenses revoked and are immediately shut down. Occasionally, these stores will be allowed to re-open, but only after meeting strict criteria.

The community of Huddersfield, in the United Kingdom, used mystery shoppers to test liquor stores and pubs in the area. According to an article in the Daily Examiner, almost a third of all pubs and liquor stores in one Huddersfield area failed undercover alcohol purchases by teenagers.

While the names of the guilty shops are usually not revealed, journalists were able to obtain a list, arguing that the information was in the public interest. The Examiner published a list of shops who had failed tests in the last year and what actions they were taking to remedy the situation.

Typically, stores immediately take action to train their employees to comply with the law and prevent any mistakes from happening in the future. They work with law enforcement to show that their systems and procedures reflect the best industry practices. In this way, mystery shopping serves a very important purpose to help the police force curb underage drinking.

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Health Care

Mystery Shopping Home Healthcare

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...
Image via Wikipedia

When it comes to gaining a competitive edge, more and more health care professionals are using mystery shoppers to better understand their patients’ experience. However, there are still some myths that prevent practices from utilizing this useful research opportunity.

The number one concern mystery shoppers hear from medical practices is that it will take time and attention away from real patients. Obviously, your patient’s health is of highest priority. That’s why medical mystery shoppers are trained to recognize when a patient comes in with an emergency and to remove themselves from the situation so that that person can be seen.

Furthermore, the use of secret shopper patients in the medical industry is backed by the American Medical Association. In June 2008, the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs released a statement that said,

Physicians have an ethical responsibility to engage in activities that contribute to continual improvements in patient care. One method for promoting such quality improvement is through the use of secret shopper ‘patients’ who have been appropriately trained to provide feedback about physician performance in the clinical setting.

So how do you blind shop your own practice? You hire a mystery shopping company to appoint an unidentified, unannounced individual to schedule an appointment and experience the typical process of being a patient. Here are some of the insights you can gain from a medical mystery shopper:

  • Impression of front desk employee (phone skills, ease of appointment scheduling, overall attitude and helpfulness)
  • Effectiveness of check-in procedures
  • Cleanliness of office
  • Efficiency of nurses
  • Adequacy of time spent with patient

Once you receive your report from the mystery company, you can analyze the results and start implementing some improvements to your practice. You can also hire a secret shopper to act as a patient in your competitor’s office to gain perspective and competitive edge.By getting insight into the patient’s point of view and how your employees perform, you can make the necessary changes to give them the best medical care possible.

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Health Care

Mystery Shopping Home Healthcare

There are a great number of things that a mystery/secret shopper might evaluate when it comes to health care facilities. In addition to traditional things like customer service and brand protection, there is a significant number of care issues that can be evaluated in a doctor’s office, in an emergency room, or in an immediate care center.

With an immediate care center, for example, a mystery shopper might call ahead to confirm that the staff member taking their call is friendly and courteous. The staffer should inform the shopper that a proper diagnosis can’t be given over the phone. They should set the prospective patient at ease by assuring them that they have several doctors present, or that the wait is not unreasonable. If there is a waiting period, the mystery shopper should be advised of another nearby (non-competitor) location where the wait is much shorter. The staffer’s goal is to keep the shopper/patient engaged in the conversation, satisfied with the service they’re getting, and ultimately to bring them into the clinic.

When the shopper goes in for their visit, they can complete their evaluation with a series of questions. Was the location easy to find? Was there adequate and appropriate parking? Was there easy access to the entrance? Was the signage good and, if at night, properly lit? Was the lobby clean? Were they greeted in a timely manner and treated in a dignified, friendly, and respectful manner? Did they get the right paperwork and a basic needs analysis? Were they advised how long the wait would be and, if appropriate, get some kind of apology?

While waiting, our shopper might look for collateral and other marketing materials. If it’s a coordinated company brand, is that brand being appropriately represented? What about signs on the wall? Restrictions on cell phone use? Are their generic laser printer copies of notices on the walls or is everything presented professionally and according to the coordinated brand identity?

During the actual triage and treatment portion of the visit, the shopper will evaluate whether the attending medical staff conducted themselves in a professional, friendly, and discreet manner, the quality of the obligatory weight and blood pressure readings, their comfort, whether proper procedures were followed, and even whether the attending nurse and physician washed their hands.

For our purposes, we work with a Registered Nurse who trains shoppers on how to present symptoms. While, certainly, a shopper can’t show up at the emergency room claiming to have a broken leg when they don’t have one, the shopper can show up at a facility and express certain symptoms to verify that they are diagnosed properly. It’s not enough for a shopper to go in and say they have a migraine. We expect them to relate the symptoms so the medical staff can make a diagnosis.

By doing a mystery shop for a healthcare clinic, we show them areas where they can improve their patient care, which means they can help more patients more effectively.