Hospital uses ‘secret shopper’ to improve customer service


Brisbane Private Hospital planted a fake patient to test and improve its admission process

As part of its ongoing quest to improve customer satisfaction, Brisbane Private Hospital used an innovative technique to gauge what the admission process is like for patients. After careful planning, General Manager Mairi McNeill planted a pretend patient in the system. The patient was booked in for an elective surgery, which was later cancelled at the last minute.

The ‘secret shopper’ went through the entire process – from consultation with the surgeon, pre-admission and the admission process and discharge, and provided a comprehensive report. This accurate report made it possible for the hospital to recognise areas that could be improved and develop ways to make the entire process more user friendly.

Ms McNeill said while the pretend patient had no major complaints or problems, the hospital was able to use her comments and suggestions to better its processes. “In response to the feedback provided by our secret shopper, we have implemented a number of measures to ensure processes are streamlined and to improve the overall experience for patients,” she said.

“For example, we have now introduced electronic admissions which eliminates duplication and saves time for the patients and staff. We have also made amendments to our call centre script to ensure consistent information dissemination, and improved processes to ensure patients are fully informed prior to their admission.

Ms McNeill said design layouts of areas used by patients were upgraded as well. “We implemented design changes such as reconfiguration of the waiting room layouts to improve our patients’ comfort,” she said.

“The patient change rooms have also been modified to include benches for seating and spaces to hold belongings, and a buzzer has been installed for patients who may need to call for assistance.” Ms McNeill said the findings prompted the hospital to review the time patients are asked to arrive prior to their operation.

“We are in the process of doing a thorough analysis to work out the optimal time needed to prepare before an operation and how long the process takes for a patient to be admitted administratively and clinically,” she said.

“We are working through the timing Secret shopper Brisbane Private Hospital planted a fake patient to test and improve its admission processes with admission, theatre and day surgery staff as well as practice managers and doctors to tailor times to suit patient needs.”

Ms McNeill said the exercise was successful and the changes have been well received by patients and staff. “Our secret shopper provided invaluable feedback and it is something we will replicate in the future.”

By Karla Simpson