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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

Stossel Says It’s the Customer Service, Not His Lung Cancer, That Stinks

Joy Daughtery Dickinson is executive editor of the Hospital Group of publications at AHC Media in Atlanta and long-time editor and writer of Same-Day Surgery. She has won nine national awards from the Specialized Information Publishers Association and the Association of Business Information & Media Companies for her blogging, news writing, and editing. She makes her home in southwest Georgia.

TV personality John Stossel has lung cancer, but that’s not what he’s complaining about. His medical care is excellent, and so is his prognosis, he says. Instead, his complaints center around the customer service he has received at a top-ranked New York hospital. He spells out his complaints in a story for Fox News. Here is an overview of his biggest complaints:

• Communication is poor. Stossel says he’s been kept waiting for hours, with no explanation. He says most of his doctors don’t give out their email addresses.

• He fills out long forms by hand, which ask for the same information, repeatedly.

• No one discusses the cost of care. Stossel says he has received imaging services and lab tests with no explanation about why they are needed or what the cost is. His stance is that because patients are not the customers – the government and insurance companies are, since they are the primary payers – healthcare doesn’t care about the patient. He says this situation leads to indifferent employees.

• There is too much bureaucracy. He points to HIPAA paperwork, patient rights regulations, and other regulations with wording that is so confusing, no employee should be expected to follow them. Fear of lawsuits leads to rigid rules instead of common sense, he says.

• Clinicians experience alarm fatigue. He says often no one responses to the alarms, staff make excuses, and patients can’t sleep. (For more information on these topics, see “Sound the Alarm: Patient Safety Is at Stake” and “Shhhhh! Patients Are Trying to Sleep – Is your Staff Keeping Them Awake?”) No one likes to be publicly chastised, especially when everyone is working hard to ensure patients receive excellent care. Perhaps those responsible for employee education and training at your facility need to be sure they’re covering customer service along with clinical instructions. That focus goes a long way toward employees leaving with a smile on their faces, and not only because the prognosis is good. (To see what one of our columnists says are about problem areas for healthcare service, at least in outpatient surgery, see “Warning signs: We’re becoming more bureaucratic.” To keep up with hospital-related breaking news as it happens, follow us on Twitter @HospitalReport.)