There’s a fundamental gem of universally helpful business advice. That is, doctors should walk into their office—at least occasionally—through the front door. The idea is for the business owner to see and experience what their customer sees and experiences.
In reality, there are many reasons that this doesn’t happen. But it remains solid advice that understanding the customer’s (patient’s) perspective is the foundation of service excellence. You can let someone else check the date on the dog-eared magazines or whatever. But physicians, hospitals and medical group practices need to tune into a different value system and consider what everyday customers consider important.
In this instance, we’re not talking about competent clinical care and a positive medical outcome. Certainly the healthcare consumer expects the provider to relieve their medical issue. On that score, consumers generally can’t differentiate much…one authoritative and professional white coat is much the same as another.
Beyond that, however, the patient’s value system is often quite different from that of the provider and the practice. Here are some of the significant issues that today’s consumer is likely to list in their Patient Manifesto:
I deserve respect. I’m an individual, a person, a partner in my health and healthcare.
Empathy goes a long way. It’s important to know that you and your staff truly care about my concerns and want to help. A smile opens that door.
I am not an interruption. I have no interest in “conveyor-belt” medicine, and I am not just another chart to be processed from the front desk to the exit station.
Answer your phone at lunchtime. Early morning, late afternoon, even at off-hours, it’s reassuring (and convenient) to be able to reach my healthcare provider when I’m in need, have questions or want an appointment.
Don’t hurry through our time together. This time is important to me, so don’t rush our visit.
Keep an honest schedule. Nobody’s perfect, but I don’t want to wait weeks for an appointment or spend hours in your “reception/waiting” room, no matter how clean and comfortable. My time is valuable, too.
Please listen. I mean, really listen to what I have to say. Ask questions and let me know you understand.
Explain it to me. Those things that are commonplace in your world are unfamiliar to me. I don’t speak doctor-jargon or med-tech-talk.
Use existing technology for our mutual benefit. Let’s communicate via doctor-patient email, text or voice mail messages when running late, patient portal for test results, online bill pay, or make a same-day (or next day) appointment online. It seems like everyone has and uses these commonplace tools, so why is healthcare stuck in the digital dark ages?
Healthcare providers face a dual challenge: to provide excellence in clinical care, and to understand and meet patient expectations. These are not mutually exclusive considerations. Delivering the highest quality of care (clinically) can still fall short in terms of customer service.
The good news is that “patient manifesto” issues are not outlandish, unreasonable or high priced. Many are within easy reach and are eminently “do-able.” Understanding the patient/customer value system requires a fresh perspective, and figuratively, walking through the front door.
This idea–for the business owner to see and experience what their customer sees and experiences–is the cornerstone of care. And meeting or exceeding patient expectations enhances relationships as well as outcomes. Plan your organization and service structure on this foundation.