How To Deliver World Class Patient Care
Healthcare Global speaks to Michael D. Brown, Founder of Fresh Customer Service about how to manage your employees to deliver world class customer service >>>
With all the conversation, debate and noise around Obamacare and what it means or doesn’t mean for the healthcare industry – many in the industry are making the grave mistaking of cutting back or making anemic investment in their level of customer service. This is the wrong direction – you are cutting pennies while dollars are flying over your head. Delivering a world-class customer service experience will have patients running to you (providing they are not coming to get a broken leg fixed). On the other hand being known for a poor customer experience will have patients running from your business with the dollars in hand.
The number one reason most companies fail, and that includes those in the healthcare industry, is that they provide a poor and anemic customer service experience. My advice runs counter to the adage that you should always put the customer first. You should put the frontline employee first and the customer/patient second and, in return, the employees will treat your customers better. You end up getting customers for life and great employee retention. They are the people on the frontline who must translate all your good work to the customer/patient, so it behooves us not to put them second. Make sure they understand the level of service and experience you are trying to give and convey to the customer.
So I realize things are tight as a bandage applied with duct tape, so I am proposing a winning solution to world-class customer service that cost less than an apple a day. No an apple a day won’t keep the doctors away it will keep the frontline motivated, empowered, and equipped to keep customers knocking the door down for preventative, emergency and post services. This is what we want right, more patients who leave us less sick than when they came and taking preventative measures to not end up in the emergency room. This is ideally what we want, but many in the health care industry are making customer sicker with their ill fated, band aid “customer service” that has patients rushing to the competition for a true healing customer experience. One of sure-fire ways to ensure a negative experience is broadcasted is to agitate someone who is already sick or has something potentially wrong with their health – for anyone who has ever been ill you know what I am talking about. An increasingly number of patients are selecting healthcare facilities based on their level of customer service and feedback from other patients. Have you checked your social feedback lately?
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Customers are becoming more demanding in this economic tsunami, because they want the most for their money and they want an experience that doesn’t make them “sicker.” That means more pressure on the frontline, who will determine whether the customer feels welcomed and cared for.
Fresh Customer Service demystifies the process of attracting loyal, happy customers who return again and again and recommend your business to their friends and families. This type of customer reaction, what some may consider as a minor detail, can actually tip the scales and prove the difference between a prosperous organization and a bankrupt organization. So what’s the secret? The Frontline Employee aka your First “Patient”
Throughout your organization’s entire process of selling, serving, marketing, cleaning, you name it, the only way you can hope to deliver a world-class customer service experience is by listening to, equipping, empowering, involving, and valuing the feedback and expertise your frontline employees can offer.
How exactly do you implement and execute Fresh Customer Service?
The First Steps: Fresh Treatment & Understanding
Getting your staff members to treat patients better may require that you first treat your frontline better. Customer service is one of the most important issues for the healthcare industry because it creates the repeat business that drives the brand and your bottom line. Many in the industry forget that the frontline staff are the vessels that takes care of the customer service and experience aspects of the business. Without incorporating their specialized knowledge and experience into the company’s business plan, they fail to meet the expectations and needs of the customer/patient and helping attract and retain current and future customers. You can start improving your service and team cohesiveness with a basic principle I call “gratitude to growth.” Recognition is the building block for motivating employees and business. Doctors receive feedback from grateful patients, so why shouldn’t surgeons give positive feedback to the frontline staff, which is a vital asset of the organization? Gratitude, a simple, but overlooked act, inspires employees to work to their full potential that will reach the customer/patient. The staff members are in daily contact with customers/patients and understand how company policy affects their experience.
Read more Fresh Steps about how your organization can improve employee and customer service >>>
The challenges to vaccine distribution affecting everyone
While it is comforting to know that vaccines against COVID-19 are showing remarkable efficacy, the world still faces intractable challenges with vaccine distribution. Specifically, the sheer number of vaccines required and the complexity of global supply chains are sure to present problems we have neither experienced nor even imagined.
Current projections estimate that we could need 12-15 billion doses of vaccine, but the largest vaccine manufacturers produce less than half this volume in a year. To understand the scale of the problem, imagine stacking one billion pennies – you would have a stack that is 950 miles high. Now, think of that times ten. This is a massive problem that one nation can’t solve alone.
Even if we have a vaccine – can we make enough? Based on current projections, Pfizer expects to produce up to 1.3 billion doses this year. Moderna is working to expand its capacity to one billion units this year. Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, is likely to produce 60% of the 3 billion doses committed by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi. This leaves us about 7 billion doses short.
Expanding vaccine production for most regions in the world is complicated and time-consuming. Unlike many traditional manufacturing operations that can expand relatively quickly and with limited regulation, pharmaceutical production must meet current good manufacturing practice (CGMP) guidelines. So, not only does it take time to transition from R&D to commercial manufacturing, but it could also take an additional six months to achieve CGMP certification.
The problem becomes even more complex when considering the co-products required. Glass vials and syringes are just two of the most essential co-products needed to produce a vaccine. Last year, before COVID-19, global demand for glass vials was 12 billion. Even if it is safe to dispense ten doses per vial, there is certain to be significant pressure on world supply of the materials needed to package and distribute a vaccine.
It is imperative drug manufacturers and their raw material suppliers have clear visibility of production plans and raw material availability if there is any hope of optimizing scarce resources and maximising production yield.
It is widely known by now that temperature is a critical factor for the COVID-19 vaccine. Even the regions with the most developed logistics infrastructures and resources needed to support a cold-chain network are sure to struggle with distribution.
For the United States alone, State and local health agencies have determined distribution costs will exceed $8.4 billion, including $3 billion for workforce recruitment and training; $1.2 billion for cold-chain, $1 billion vaccination sites and $0.5 billion IT upgrades.
The complexity of the problem increases further when considering countries such as India that do not have cold-chain logistics networks that meet vaccine requirements. Despite India’s network of 28,000 cold-chain units, none are capable of transporting vaccines below -25°Celsius. While India’s Serum Institute has licensed to manufacture AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which can reportedly be stored in standard refrigerated environments, even a regular vaccine cold chain poses major challenges.
Furthermore, security will undoubtedly become a significant concern that global authorities must address with a coordinated solution. According to the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, theft and counterfeiting of pharmaceutical products rose nearly 70% over the past five years. As with any valuable and scarce product, counterfeits will emerge. Suppliers and producers are actively working on innovative approaches to limit black-market interference. Corning, for example, is equipping vials with black-light verification to curb counterfeiting.
Clearly, this is a global problem that will require an unprecedented level of collaboration and coordination.
Disconnected information systems
While it is unreasonable to expect every country around the world will suddenly adopt a standard technology that would provide immediate, accurate and available information for everyone, it is not unreasonable to think that we can align on a standard taxonomy that can serve as a Rosetta Stone for collaboration.
A shared view of the situation (inventory, raw materials, delivery, defects) will provide every nation with the necessary information to make life-saving decisions, such as resource pooling, stock allocations and population coverage.
By allowing one central authority, such as the World Health Organization, to organize and align global leaders to a single collaboration standard, such as GS1, and a standard sharing protocol, such as DSCSA, then every supply chain participant will have the ability to predict, plan and execute in a way that maximises global health.
Political influence and social equality
As if we don’t have enough stress and churn in today’s geopolitical environment, we must now include the challenge of “vaccine nationalism.” While this might not appear to be a supply chain problem, per se, it is a critical challenge that will hinge on supply chain capabilities.
In response to the critical supply issues the world experienced with SARS-CoV-2, the World Health Organization, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) formed Covax: a coalition dedicated to equitable distribution of 2 billion doses of approved vaccines to its 172 member countries. Covax is currently facilitating a purchasing pool and has made commitments to buy massive quantities of approved vaccines when they become available.
However, several political powerhouse countries, such as the United States and Russia, are not participating. Instead, they are striking bilateral deals with drug manufacturers – essentially, competing with the rest of the world to secure a national supply. Allocating scarce resources is never easy, but when availability could mean the difference between life and death, it becomes almost impossible.
Global production, distribution and social equality present dependent yet conflicting realities that will demand global supply chains provide complete transparency and an immutable chain of custody imperative to vaccine distribution.
The technology is available today – we just need to use it. We have the ability to track every batch, pallet, box, vile and dose along the supply chain. We have the ability to know with absolute certainty that the vaccine is approved, where and when it was manufactured, how it was handled and whether it was compromised at any point in the supply chain. Modern blockchain technologies should be applied so that every nation, institution, regulator, doctor and patient can have confidence in knowing that they are making an impact in eradicating COVID-19.