Real Talk

Healthcare Mystery Shopping

In the past decade, baby boomers have become the largest group of people in the country. According to the US Census Bureau, as of April 2014, they made up 76.4 million of the US population. As this sector, born between 1946 and 1964, ages, the demands on the nation’s healthcare system have pushed it to unimaginable limits. Quality care at affordable prices is now one of the main concerns of the majority of the population.

Healthcare mystery shopping helps providers attain and maintain the highest possible standards. Shopping programs evaluate behaviors and processes from phone inquiries through care provided and follow-up. Programs assess health care providers’ compliance with their own standards as well as those established by regulatory agencies. They also help providers discover behavioral characteristics of staff members from administrative support to aides, technicians, nurses and physicians in order to coach and motivate personnel to better performances.

Healthcare mystery shoppers need to be extremely detail oriented and have exemplary communication skills. Assignments may include telephone evaluations, in-person assessments, or a combination of the two. Shoppers may need to pose as patients or a friend or relative of a patient. Narratives on shopper reports typically require detailed accounts of interactions with a wide range of medical personnel to provide a well-rounded perspective on the experience.

Telephone Evaluations

Since most healthcare experiences begin with a number of phone inquiries, these are an integral part of evaluations. These calls include information gathering, appointment scheduling, and pricing inquiries. Mystery shoppers are assigned locations and scenarios selected by clients.

Information gathering calls generally include questions regarding location, hours and types of acceptable insurance and/or payment plans. Ease of appointment scheduling as well as availability/time frames are also analyzed. Many shopper reports focus on the availability of pricing for examinations and procedures.

All telephone healthcare mystery shopper reports require evaluation of staff friendliness, their ability to knowledgeably answer questions or direct calls to appropriate personnel, hold times, and levels of empathy for prospective patients.

In-Person Assessments

Healthcare assessments performed face-to-face are challenging, interesting and of great value to clients, as they are the best way to determine if their facility personnel are meeting prescribed standards of service. Shoppers must provide details on who they dealt with as well as facts on timing, clarity of communications, speed of service, the overall ambiance of the facility, and the compassion of personnel. These observations are written in plain language to reflect as closely as possible the reactions of real patients.

In-person assessments include visiting a doctor or facility alone with symptoms of a non-threatening malady. Shoppers analyze all personnel from the receptionist through the technicians and physicians, as well as the condition of the waiting and exam rooms and the wait time. Report questions also cover levels of comfort and the doctor’s bedside manner.

Observatory visits require shoppers to visit a facility to analyze the atmosphere and environment. Acting like a friend or family member of a patient, the shopper reports on the physical conditions both inside and outside, employee encounters, as well as comments and conversations overheard in public areas regarding the experiences of patients, friends and family.

Paired patient evaluations require a collaborative effort among the mystery shopper, healthcare personnel, and a real patient with a scheduled appointment whose consent is confirmed in advance. The shopper, masquerading as a family member or friend, reports on the entire patient encounter, from inception through completion.

In all scenarios, the key areas of review are communication and environment. Shoppers must report on the quality of interactions between patients and nurses, patients and doctors, and support staffs with all personnel as well as the clarity of discharge instructions and quality of responses to patient inquiries and needs. Communications between medical personnel and family members are also assessed by shoppers.

Physical environments also greatly impact the patient experience. Mystery shopping reports generally include questions regarding noise levels, privacy, temperatures of waiting and exam rooms, cleanliness, and adherence to hazardous waste management guidelines.

Healthcare mystery shopping provides lucrative opportunities as well as the chance to closely observe an industry vital to human existence. In addition, shoppers can take pride in knowing they’re helping people receive quality care in consistently professional and benevolent atmospheres. Sign up to become a mystery shopper with Reality Based Group today.

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