Best Practices for Managing Customer Service in the Mental Health Field

Serving the needs of individuals struggling with a mental health disorder requires a certain degree of both empathy as well as an awareness of federal law. While the mental health provider is in an authority position, it is essential that the attitude presented to the patient be one of compassion, treating each patient with the dignity they deserve in the process of serving him or her. The focus of customer service should be centered on assisting the patient in securing the services best matched to their mental health needs.

This particular patient segment may present unique challenges in case management, so having a good understanding of best industry standards can help the provider optimize the level of customer care offered. The practices to consider might include:

  • Timely services.  The intake process is a key entry point for the customer service experience. How the patient is treated during the initial interfacing can leave a significant impact on their overall treatment experience. Is the clinical team providing a thorough same-day evaluation of the presenting problem? Does the provider offer same-day access to services when a patient calls or walks in? Is the intake team treating the patient with patience and respect while making an effort to provide timely services?
  • Efficiency in data collection. Paperwork during intake can become cumbersome, weighing down the patient and leading to unnecessary delays in treatment. Has your practice recently reviewed the information asked of the patient in the various documents? Are there multiple redundancies? Is the electronic healthcare records software program being used expedient or outdated?
  • Patient satisfaction. What procedures are in place to measure patient satisfaction with your practice? Have you conducted patient surveys? Does your practice encourage reviews or feedback?
  • Staff performance. How is staff performance measured? Is patient satisfaction a factor in determining a staff member’s job performance? Are there timely performance reviews in place to help employees continue to improve and reach new performance benchmarks?
  • Coordination of services. Mental healthcare often involves coordination of various clinical or social services. Is your practice managing the coordination of these services effectively? Has the practice looked for ways to improve or streamline this sometimes complex aspect of mental health services?
  • HIPAA compliance. Data collection and privacy are of paramount importance across the healthcare spectrum, but is particularly critical in the mental health field. Protecting patient data should be a priority, necessitating regular staff training sessions, clearly articulated policies, and extreme care in data collection and confidentiality.
  • Accurate record keeping. Accurate and timely documentation requires diligence, especially with the advent of electronic health records. Proper coding, clearly articulated note taking, coordination of care notations, and up-to-date patient demographic information are all essential for maintaining best practices.

Customer service in healthcare has become an important barometer when a prospective patient, including those seeking mental health services, is researching service providers. Customer service has become an intrinsic aspect of branding, creating leaders in the mental health industry who embrace the challenge of improving customer care practices. Every practice can find areas that can be tightened up and improved, enhancing the overall patient experience.

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