Improving Patient Engagement

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By Calvin Bostic, Director of Security, ODS Security Solutions

How do hospital security officers impact patient engagement? Security officers come in contact with patients and staff all day long. They have the optimal opportunity to create a positive patient experience.

What is Great Patient Engagement?

Great customer service is defined as a person receiving services they want (requested or not) in a timely manner from a person who genuinely appears to care about their happiness. Great patient engagement follows this same model – give patients more than they expect and demonstrate empathy and understanding.

Secrets to patient engagement include a focus on competent and friendly security. Businesses that provide great customer service tend to be successful by building loyalty and a positive reputation. Hospitals are also businesses, but in a very unique environment. Unfortunately, a great patient experience can be quickly forgotten by a single adverse action – and repeated undesirable experiences can dramatically damage the patient’s perception of the hospital. It then extends into the community where negative feedback can further damage a hospital’s reputation.

A hospital’s reputation is not derived from simply providing a patient with the proper medical care. It involves the collaborative efforts of the hospital staff, including clinicians, ancillary staff, security officers, and volunteers. Interaction with patients at every level has an impact on how patients and families perceive their experience – from the minute they enter the doors or parking lot, until they leave.

When a hospital patient or visitor receives better service than expected, then the hospital’s reputation increases and loyalty is established. But receiving or observing just one negative experience will decrease that reputation and create ill-will.

The Hospitality Approach

In a traditional role, Security Officers observe and report. Through a variety of tools, Security Officers constantly evaluate persons on their property to:

  • detect any signs of current or future security threats
  • respond to the scene and take steps needed to eliminate or remove that threat

Although the traditional role is effective from a security point of view, it is not necessarily the best approach in the sensitive healthcare environment. The hospital offenders and witnesses are often left with an unpleasant experience according to the traditional approach.

There is a better way.

Security Officers who provide a warm smile, wave or greeting make patients and visitors feel more welcome and appreciated. They do not feel they are under the watchful eye and scrutiny of an officer.

Providing a sincere salutation to a would-be offender serves as a deterrent to an event, since it highlights the security officer’s presence and observation. Officers who respond to security incidents and respectfully ask questions or make requests to an offender, typically have a more positive outcome than those security officers issuing curt orders and demands.

Using a tactic from Steven Covey’s “Emotional Bank Account,” the hospital(ity) security officers provide a positive experience to every hospital patient and visitor they encounter. Not only will their actions improve the hospital’s overall sense of friendliness – but it will assist the officers should they encounter the patron later for a security related issue.

Assisting patrons with locked keys in their car, jumping dead car batteries, providing an umbrella during heavy rain, assistance with wheelchairs, and many other minor tasks allow hospital security officers to clearly advance a hospital’s great patient engagement strategies – and reduce security incidents.

Are your hospital security officers and leadership focused on positive patient engagement? Visit our Secrets to Patient Engagement to learn more.