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Delivering an Exceptional Patient Experience: Sometimes Leadership Rolls Uphill

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer
Headshot of Steve Smith from Healthcare Success

Steve Smith, Healthcare Success

by Steve Smith, Healthcare Success Senior Consultant

A recent consultation with a client in the Midwest revealed that the physician partners only gave lip service to customer service. Oh, they want each patient to have a good experience, of course, but that's as far as their involvement goes.

Unfortunately, that put my office manager contact, “Bob” between a rock and a hard place. Bob knew the value of good service but he also knew that some of the worst offenders of basic customer service protocols in this practice were the doctors themselves.

“How can I expect my staff to treat patients a certain way when the docs don’t do it?” he asked.

The physician offenses included little or no respect for wait times (often as a result of overbooking, poor efficiency or simply indifference), conversing in the professional shorthand known as “medi-speak,” and limiting patient information to a “need to know” basis.

I told Bob that whether the physicians practice what they preach is important, but presently outside of his control. We can only be concerned about what we can influence or direct. And since no one seems to be in a position to tell the physicians how to behave, the first available step is to focus on our own actions.

He and the staff need to understand that a great patient experience is not exclusively up to the physicians. As an example, I pointed out how a conversation between a patient and the billing department can ruin not only the patient relationship but also a referral relationship as well.

“I know,” he said,” but the docs are the leaders here.”

“Bob,” I replied, “each of us is responsible for our own behavior. We have to be able to go to sleep at night knowing that we delivered our best. What the physicians do [or don’t do] doesn’t change the customer service mission for the staff."

A short time later, I met this situation head-on by telling the entire staff that I was aware of specific physician behavior that was less than patient-centered.

In a perfect world, physicians should take leadership in creating an exceptional patient experience. And while that issue can be addressed separately, the patient experience isn’t exclusive to doctor face-time.

In fact, patients typically spend most of their time in the office with everyone other than the doctor. Thus the staff has an important responsibility to deliver a high-quality patient experience in everything they do.

It’s contagious. And sometimes leadership rolls uphill.

And if you need an independent sounding board for a customer service issue in your office, you’re welcome to connect with us here.

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