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Capacity constraints, expectations likely reasons for decline in satisfaction: CSISG panelist

Dr Lim suggests that it is crucial for healthcare providers to carefully segment patients into actionable categories ... and then work out how to care for these different segments differently

THERE are two likely leading reasons for the decline in customer/patient satisfaction in the healthcare sector as shown by the findings of the CSISG 2015, says Jeremy Lim, who has extensive experience in both the local public and private medical sectors.

He is a partner in the Singapore office of Oliver Wyman, a leading global management consulting firm, where he heads the health and life sciences practice for the Asia-Pacific region.

"Firstly, the healthcare sector is under tremendous capacity constraints due to population ageing and the consequent increase in waiting times, need for shorter consultation periods etc would lead to a decline in satisfaction," says Dr Lim, who was a panelist at the discussion on the CSISG 2015 results announcement.

"Secondly societal expectations of service have evolved considerably and in this era of 'on demand, any time, anywhere' expectations which can be fulfilled for at least straightforward needs in sectors such as banking, media and digital entertainment, it is unsurprising that there would be calls for healthcare to follow likewise."

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Healthcare is a complex sector and still somewhat traditional in care delivery models and interactions with patients. That said, the healthcare sector in Singapore has done a marvellous job in contributing to the health of Singaporeans overall, and this should be recognised despite the decline in satisfaction, says Dr Lim.

He suggests that it is crucial for healthcare providers to carefully segment patients into actionable categories, for not just clinical needs but service expectations, and then work out how to care for these different segments differently.

"For example, healthcare providers can harness the power of digital technologies and sophisticated logistics options to extend the hours of engaging with patients and convenience in addition to improving clinical quality. This cannot be done by healthcare providers alone, and regulators and payers need to work in unison to ensure enlightened laws and fair payments for innovative care delivery," says Dr Lim.

As for the study finding that there is not much change in customer satisfaction in 2015 with regard to private hospitals, he says: "Private hospitals excel in addressing patients' clinical needs in ways most convenient to the patients. Same day consultations with three or four specialists for a patient with complex medical conditions are not uncommon and the high-touch nature of private practice lends itself to higher satisfaction. The challenge in private healthcare is managing costs while still delivering the high levels of clinical and service quality."

"We can't conclude from the data in this survey but another contributory factor to higher satisfaction is smooth handovers from one doctor to another or from one care team to another during shift changes and so on. Perhaps this is done more easily in the private sector due to a generally less complex pool of patients," says Dr Lim.