Magic at Disney: It’s available in healthcare

When a moment of magic often occurs, hopefully, more frequently than moments of misery, the positive movement is not recognized and is seldom celebrated.

When s&*t hits the fan, most medical practices conduct damage control to identify the problem and, more importantly, to see that the problem does not occur again. When a patient complains and has a moment of misery with the practice, the investigation will reveal that an employee or even the physician did not perform to the patient's expectation. However, sometimes, the investigation will discover a problem in the system. If a patient waits on hold when calling the office for more than several minutes. Then when the caller does connect with the office, the caller is relegated to a phone tree. This is unacceptable, and most patients don't appreciate a long hold time or being required to listen to multiple options before they can speak to a human. This is a system problem that needs to be fixed. Suppose the practice conducts patient satisfaction surveys and hears this complaint multiple times. In that case, the process needs to be repaired.

On the other hand, when a moment of magic often occurs, hopefully, more frequently than moments of misery, the positive movement is not recognized and is seldom celebrated. I suggest that these magic moments be acknowledged with every intention that the action is repeated.

When an accolade is received by the practice, the compliment is buried or not celebrated at all. Let me provide examples of how a moment of magic is honored and shared with others in practice.

It is common for patients to share with the doctor in the exam room how helpful a staff member was and compliment the staff member. Rather than gloss over the compliment, the doctor might consider asking the patient "to hold that thought." Then go to the employee and invite him\her into the exam room and ask the patient to repeat the compliment so that the patient hears the remark directly from the patient. For example, a patient reports that the receptionist was so helpful in making an appointment so quickly for the patient. The receptionist comes to the room and hears from the patient that her effort is appreciated. The employee will likely break into a smile as they enjoy the recognition. This acknowledgment takes less than three minutes, but it is the best three minutes you can invest in staff motivation. Sharing the same story at a future staff meeting so that the remainder of the staff also hears the compliment. This informs the staff that their actions are recognized and celebrated by everyone. This approach motivates others to extend themselves to patients so everyone can have magic moments within the practice.

A second example is the thank you note sent by a patient to the office manager or to the treating doctors complimenting them on their expertise or outstanding care. Most of those notes are tossed out, placed in a drawer, or posted on the practice bulletin board in the employee lounge. I suggest you share the note with all the staff and send a copy to the patient's referring physician with a letter that mentions his\her patient's positive experience. Obtain permission from the patient and place the note in a scrapbook in the reception area for other patients to read about the positive experience others have had with the doctors and the practice.

Finally, our last example is the situation when a patient refers another patient, usually a family or friend, to the practice. Isn't a referral from a satisfied patient worth at least a thank you note? In most practices, if you consider the lifetime value of a patient, it is often equivalent to thousands of dollars. However, you can create a raving fan if you send the patient a meaningful gift in the $50-$100 range. This gift isn't necessary, nor is the referral expected, but a small gift is very appreciated. With a lovely, meaningful gift, you will likely find that the patient will continue the process and refer others to your practice.

Let me end this blog with the reality that healthcare is not like a trip to the Magic Kingdom. But just as Disney converts moments of misery to moments of magic, healthcare can do the same.

The bottom line: Of course, moments of misery must be addressed and corrected. However, it is just as important to recognize those moments of magic you want to see again. The take-home message is that moments of misery and magic are an opportunity to offer stellar services to our patients.

Neil Baum, MD, a Professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Baum is the author of several books, including the best-selling book, Marketing Your Medical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, which has sold over 225,000 copies and has been translated into Spanish. He contributes a weekly video for Medical Economics on practical ideas to enhance productivity and efficiency in medical practices.  His 5–7-minute videos and short articles provide practical ideas that can be easily implemented and incorporated into any medical practice. Dr. Baum can be reached at doctorwhiz@gmail.com.