I recently ready an article about “mystery patients” in Modern Healthcare. Apparently some companies are hiring people to pose as patients in order to get a handle on customer satisfaction in a healthcare setting. The idea is modeled after “mystery shoppers” who show up in restaurants or other retail establishments, and provide reports on many aspects of the experience.
I’m wondering if this is a good idea in the healthcare sector. On the one hand, you could find out how long a person has to spend in the waiting room before they see a doctor. The problem is, this is just one person’s experience. If the office is backed up because of an emergency, or especially slow that day, it can give you inaccurate information about patient wait times. And how many mystery shoppers do you really want to send through your office? A much better measure would be to ask each person you see “How long did you spend in the waiting room today?” Bingo! You have your answer! Also, many doctors' offices have patients sign in as to what time they arrived. Just having the receptionist write what time they are called back to the examining room will prevent any over- or under-estimating by the patient. Why use a “mystery patient” when you have real patients in your office every day that you can talk to? And besides, asking real patients how long they had to wait, or whether they felt like the doctor listened to their concerns will make them feel like you care, and let them know these things are importnat to you.