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Mystery shopping in the medical field

Mystery shoppers can help shed light on the customer service element of health care. In the increasingly competitive arena of medicine, a mystery shopper visit can have a strong effect on hospital and physician procedures.

Though this certainly doesn't sound like a typical shop, AARP clarifies that any person going undercover to a hospital or practice is simply there to review the patient experience, rather than the actual skills of the nurses and doctors. Shoppers would have the same sort of checklists and still have to write up a report after their visit. Instead of ordering food in a restaurant, they are playing the part of patient in an office.

However, as related in the New York Times, medical mystery shoppers must follow a script. They may be asked to call a hospital to see if their insurance is accepted and track how they are treated by anyone on the other side of the phone. Perhaps they'll be told to memorize and relay specific symptoms to their doctor. It may also be as simple as reporting on how they are treated by the receptionist when they walk through the door.

The New York Times also points out that medical mystery shopping in the health care realm has met much criticism. But Holly Auer at Penn Medicine insists that the information gathered is invaluable and relevant to the general goal of improving America's healthcare system. Mystery shopping in a hospital with a doctor is not at all unlike scientific studies or double-blind experiments done to test new medications before they become available on the market, says Auer. She also points out that a shortage in primary care and family physicians has led to longer wait times and appointment availability for patients with certain health care providers.

Mystery shoppers can offer their services to an important industry and help provide valuable interpretations of flaws in the medical system.