Good customer service prevents abuse


A focus on customer service can lead to a big drop in customer complaints and may prevent problems from escalating to a point where patients or their families are abusive to staff.

That is the view of Jeff Natterman, risk manager at Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, where a doctor was injured in a shooting in 2009. After shooting the doctor, the gunman shot his mother, who was a patient at the hospital, before turning the gun on himself. Both died instantly.

In an exclusive interview in the latest issue of Healthcare Risk Management Review, Natterman discusses the investigations that followed the shooting and the changes that have been put in place.

One of the most important changes was the introduction of the hospital’s new clinical customer services coordinator program. Investigations revealed that a lot of problem behaviour stemmed from little things that were not addressed or taken care of in good time.

That led to frustration for patients and their families, sometimes to the point where they became violent or threatening. In order to address this issue the hospital has hired a team of staff to look after clinical customer service in each of the units.

“Their sole responsibility is to work out problems like parking, food, communication or setting up appointments – whatever it takes to get the care coordinated better,” said Natterman.

“They are also the frontline for original grievances and helping to resolve those grievances instead of having it go to some centralized grievance group that then deals with it with less alacrity. By addressing these concerns in real time we’ve seen a statistically significant drop in the kinds of complaints that we see in our patient relations department or to the legal department.”

Read the full interview in Healthcare Risk Management Review, published April 21.

abuse, customer service, Healthcare Risk Management Review, problems, healthcare risk management