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.