Have you ever referred a friend to a friend and it didn't go well? That happened to me earlier this year. This awkward, embarrassing situation taught me a few lessons about taking care of patients that I thought I would share.
A friend of mine, Bob, had a health issue and asked me who he should see. I recommended a physician friend, Don. I have worked with Don for years and hold him in high regard. He is a very good physician who cares about his patients. I felt very comfortable sending Bob to see Don, because I would choose Don to take care of me.
About two weeks later I ask Bob how he was doing and if he was getting any better. He said, "Yeah, I saw Don. Seems very bright and knows what he's doing. But man, his place just cranks you out. I felt I was at one of those busy restaurants where the staff glares if you stay too long. Felt like they just wanted me out the door after they took my money of course."
Every system is perfectly tuned to achieve the results they get.
I was stunned. Don didn't seem that way to me. I guess people change a little when they are under the pressure of seeing thirty patients in one afternoon. Then I happened to have a conversation with one of Don's partners. He was proud of their streamlined process. They built their entire office around seeing the maximum number of patients each day. I can understand their desire to see as many patients as possible since their wait list is about four to six weeks. They are in high demand and are trying to satisfy the market. But I think they've missed an important point. Every system is perfectly tuned to obtain the results it yields. What is your system tuned for?
I believe patients really want to be cared for. Being treated is different from being cared for. In today's shifting health insurance coverage, I believe patients will be expected more caring too. Bob has a $5,000 deductible plan. So Don's $1,500 bill comes out of Bob's pocket. Bob even made the comment, "For $1,500, I can get a lot of stuff instead of a hi-bye from my doctor."
As physicians, we forget the demand for healthcare is elastic. People are price sensitive when it comes to their own personal healthcare. Their expectations also shift in accordance with the amount of cash leaving their pocketbook. If Bob had a $30 copay instead of a huge deductible, he might be feeling different about how Don's office made him feel.
Some Tips on Designing a Process
Many of our patients are now in Bob's situation. Their perceptions of what they are buying have shifted too. Unfortunately, many practices have not recognized this. They are still in a fee-for-service, quantity driven mindset. And let's be honest, in our current model, we earn money from doing things, whether it's performing a procedure or counseling patients. The good news is that you can still have a process geared for high output but leaves the patient feeling cared for. To accomplish this, you must plan their emotional experience. You must be deliberate in your touch points with the patient. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.