How Perception Impacts the Quality of Your Healthcare Security Efforts
We’ve all heard the age-old expression: “perception is everything”, or maybe even more dramatically, “perception is reality”, the latter attributed to political consultant Lee Atwater.
The way a program or organization is perceived by its customers, employees, and even the public at large triggers an emotional response that determines how people engage with it. Ultimately, these perceptions can influence the success (or failure) of that program or organization over time.
If the perception is one of trust and value, customers interact favorably (even generously) with engagement, with their dollars, and with word of mouth referrals. If perception is negative, the impact can be devastating. For as much as someone may respond generously after a positive experience, people are even more likely (up to 50%) to respond negatively and even give negative feedback when they have a bad experience.
Let’s look at how perceptions can relate to your healthcare security program. A serious impact of a mismatch in perception vs. reality when it comes to healthcare security is that people’s safety, health, and even lives are at stake. The real and perceived effectiveness of your healthcare security efforts protects the privacy of records, as well as the physical safety of individuals at some of the most stressful and vulnerable times – staff and patients alike. Security matters more now than ever. If there is a break in the perception of security, then there isn’t the experience of security, and the system essentially fails.
What creates the perception of a secure organization or facility? And how does it affect quality?
When it comes to the perception of a healthcare security program, it must be perceived as meeting relevant needs as well as being consistent, responsive, and present/visible. Then and only then will the perception result in feelings of safety and trust with the organization. This goes for all levels of ‘customers’.
To be visible means various elements of a security program need to be within view at all times. Locked doors, visible security officers, visible cameras, bright lights in dark areas – these are all elements that contribute to a visible security presence. Even small details like name badges (on staff and wristbands on patients) can be a subtle, visible reassurance, creating the perception of security. When customers in the organization/facility perceive the presence of security, they feel safe and secure. Visibility goes hand in hand with feeling safe.
As another key element, operations need to be consistent, meaning the exact same across the board at all times – doors locked and unlocked only according to protocol, all bags checked, or security checkpoints processed in the same way, no matter who is passing through, and name tags and wristbands being processed and worn in the same way in the same place. These details performed consistently create a sense of stability and security that promote trust. When handled inconsistently, the system will not be trusted. If corners are cut for certain staff or if the protocol only applies to some and not all, this inconsistency erodes the power of the rules as well as trust and safety at the same time.
If something happens and a person responds, anyone within view or earshot will feel reassured. This goes for a light bulb that goes out or an alarm sound of any kind. All staff must operate at a high level of responsiveness for safety to be perceived. The quality of the security system can extend beyond the security team in this way. For both consistency and responsiveness, security takes a team of all staff for these aspects to be successful.
Take away any one of those elements and the perception can shift. A negative perception can result in a failure of trust, which can lead to turning away from the organization altogether. Even if the systems are technically effective and high quality, if the perception isn’t there, the system will not work.
Patient Perspective Becomes Your Reputation
The patient perspective of your healthcare organization is the equivalent of your brand’s reputation. If patients have a good experience and can relax into trust, they will rave about the facility or organization and return for care again. Patients don’t necessarily attribute their good experience to security as it may be seamless and invisible in many ways, even if it is fundamental to their care. On the other hand, if security is perceived as weak or inadequate their care may feel inadequate, they may feel unsafe and will likely complain and/or not return. Perception is everything.
Staff Perspective Becomes Your Service Delivery
Staff perspective of your healthcare security system translates into how they interact with security elements and can translate into how they interact with each other and even with patients. If the staff thinks they can do things their own way, they may try to cut corners, do favors for one another or just try to find more efficient ways of getting their jobs done. When it comes to responsiveness, if a staff member sees something that requires attention but feels ‘it’s not my problem’, it can go untended for longer than necessary. A team approach and a commitment to consistency and responsiveness across the board can make the difference for a positive patient perspective. In this way, staff perspective creates patient perspective. It’s all tied together and it all makes a difference. Again, perception is everything.
To learn how to assess the perception of your healthcare security program or how to improve perception, download our latest guide, “3 Key Components of an Effective Healthcare Security Program,” or contact a Lowers & Associates risk management consultant today.