“When certainty is not an option, you can still offer them the next best thing. Your presence. Concierge Doctors routinely visit their Patient(s) and talk with family members in the Hospital when admitted or an emergency has occurred. It’s not something they can predict, but they’ve recognized it is an important and personal gesture worth more than any amount of money or even life itself. Concierge Doctors have recognized that their mere presence is important. They know that this uncommon, random act of kindness comes with a price tag which they [the Doctor] cannot put a price tag on. That is, this random act of kindness often creates a bond between the Patient-Physician for LIFE!” ~Editor, Concierge Medicine Today/CMT-FORUM/The DocPreneur Leadership Podcast/The DPC Journal
By Michael Tetreault, Editor-in-Chief
Nothing brightens up a sterile, dark, depressing hospital room like a smile from a loved one, a balloon, laughter or a visit from a friend or even your most trusted healthcare confidant, your personal [Concierge] Physician.
For close, personal friends and family, flowers and a card are pretty optional but basic hospital visit gift shop staples to walk into the hospital room with to greet a loved one who is staying at the hospital.
There is a reason why it’s a revenue opportunity and budget item on most hospital balance sheets. After all, why do you think the hospital put a gift shop in the building? Just for benevolence purposes?
It seems an unlikely setting for a thriving retail business, but hospital gift shops are high-volume operations, many of which see annual gross sales of more than $1 million.
Cindy Jones, a nationally recognized hospital gift shop expert who publishes a biweekly newsletter that reaches over 1,800 managers. She spent over 30 years as a consultant, designing hundreds of stores across the country. In a 2017 interview with +HBI, she said “It is very common to have a shop that can gross $1 million. But you can have $1 million in sales and still have a very low net profit that you can give back to the hospital. 80% of the customers for a hospital gift shop are hospital employees—not patients or family. I would say it is a female employee between the ages of 22 to 55. You will get some sales from others, but nothing compared to all the sales you get from the captive audience, which are all the employees in the hospital who really aren’t able to leave the physical setting.”
RELATED STORY | FOR DOCTORS | Patient-Care Distractions In Your Practice
External factors can derail the message of health, prevention and wellness before a Patient even enters the exam room.
“First of all, the financial structure is completely different [from most traditional gift shops’.] Rarely do they pay for rent or utilities, and they often have no paid staff. As a result, they can be tremendously profitable. A lot can come down to the bottom line,” notes one gift shop manager.
Susan Noyes, manager of the Shops at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, MA, says it appeals to on-site customers with special events at each of the three locations. These include seasonal sales, birthday discounts, Christmas in July and programs that allow vendors from outside the hospital to sell merchandise in the shop. Portions of the proceeds are then handed over to the hospital.
Kim Schuler, chief operating officer of Lori’s Gift Shops, says that hospital employees can frequent a gift shop upward of five times a day. With little time to spare, many hospital employees simply don’t have time to leave the premises. While on break, they will often peruse the gift shops.
While hospital gift shops cater to patients and visitors with flowers, plush items and gifts, many managers and industry professionals interviewed for this feature report that more than 60 percent of a gift shop’s customer base consists of hospital employees. With nonprofit status, a staff of volunteers and a solid and steady flow of customers, a gift shop can be an extremely valuable operation for the hospital it serves.
“Sometimes they don’t purchase anything. Sometimes they are just trying to get away and walk around. We have music to create an ambience,” Schuler says.
Jones adds, “Candy will probably always have the most sales. But even though they have the highest sales in the shop, they have a lower profit margin. While it may not be the biggest profit maker, it brings people into the shop. So I always recommend putting candy at the very back so customers have to traverse all through the shop. Apparel and jewelry are selling and are two categories where the money is for sure.”
It seems however, one visitor to the hospital room is routinely missing. Potentially this person is the most important figure in the life and well-being of the Patient.
Their personal Physician.
So whether or not you have hospital or admitting privileges doesn’t matter?
We think family members and patients who’ve experienced these rare visits from their Doctor would say that doesn’t and shouldn’t matter at all.
“If you [eg their Concierge Doctor] want a patient FOR LIFE, visit them in the hospital,” said Dan Hecht, former CEO, MDVIP, Former Leader/Executive, PROCTER & GAMBLE (NYSE:PG), now coaching, speaking and writing with CEOhm. “Try navigating managed care on a rotary phone. So many things get in the way of connecting with Patients in a Doctor’s office. Choose the road less traveled.”
And surveys and data is proving this out.
In 2019 and again in 2020, Concierge Medicine Today (CMT) unpacked this missed opportunity and noticed something insightful happening … really only in Concierge Medicine.
We asked CMT-Physician Readers, “Do You Visit Your Concierge Patients In The Hospital When Necessary?”
The answer: 4/5 Concierge Physicians Make a Special Trip and Visit Their Patients In the Hospital When Necessary.
“My vision is to cultivate a personal Patient – doctor relationship amidst a bustling urban community where impersonal professional relationships are the norm,” said Dr. Edward Espinosa Buckhead Concierge Internal Medicine, Atlanta, GA. “Our practice strives to deliver quality medical care with an emphasis on evidence based medicine, open communication, easy accessibility, and a focus on customer service. These benefits can lead to an overall improvement in how healthcare is delivered and may ultimately improve outcomes.”
To be clear, this story today isn’t about how hospitals have limited visitor and family member access or have restricted visits due to the Pandemic. That’s another story and another day.
This is about identifying an uncommon opportunity to cement the relationship you have with a Patient.
Lets be honest, not every Doctor feels comfortable with this or even attempts this gesture.
This random act of kindness might seem forced or fake. We understand.
RELATED STORY | PATIENT CARE | FOR DOCTORS
Editor: Seven (7) Ways Doctors Can Implement ‘A Patient Gratitude System’
Unlike routine visits to a medical office and your practice, the occasional email or maybe a home visit once a year … (if that), many Physicians today do not simply find it necessary or attempt to schedule the time in their calendar to visit patients who were either admitted due to an emergency, complication, surgery or the like. We understand that very few Doctors look forward to going to a hospital and visiting with their Patients or interacting with family members. These seemingly awkward encounters may require something from you which you cannot give.
It’s just easier to tell yourself, “it’s just not ‘worth it'”, right?
Yes, the People you’ll encounter or bump into along the way may want something from you. Something you’re not ready, equipped or can freely give.
That being, *Certainty.*
Yes. Let us explain.
You know as well as I do that often times in the “practice” of medicine, *certainty* and *clarity* … especially about the odds of recovery and/or treatment just isn’t possible. You do your best to be data driven and scientific, but on many occasions, the words you say are … “We’ll just wait and see …” and that’s the only certainty and clarity you can provide and is simply the best answer you can give.
You’re putting yourself in an awkward position. You’re essentially ‘putting yourself out there’ as some would say.
But, when certainty is not an option, you can still offer them the next best thing.
It’s that simple.
Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.
Stop. Just don’t.
Don’t complicate this. Don’t over analyze this.
Just ‘be still and be present.’
There is more to their circumstances than meets your eyes.
You’d probably agree that yes, hospital room visits are meant for close family members, extended area specific relatives and even close friends and loved ones … to stop and deliver cards, candy and flowers. Their presence and presents communicate “I care …” and “We’re here for you.”
But did you realize that there’s someone in their life that is just as important too? Someone for whom “Five words from you … mean more than fifty words about you.” Someone who when you enter the room, people are glad you’re there. Someone whom family members address with respect and uncommon kindness because right there, at that very moment, you’ve become the most important person in the room … their Doctor and more importantly, their friend.
Your presence is important. It’s included in a very traumatic chapter in their life.
They’re going to tell this story. As their primary care physician, you have a choice as to whether or not you’re going to be included in their story, for better or worse.
So what can you offer? What should you do the next time you receive word that a Patient of yours is in a local area hospital?
The answer. Well, let’s let the data drive your decision. If 4/5 Concierge Physicians make a special trip and visit their Patient(s) in the hospital when necessary, make the effort.
Furthermore, let’s let experience drive your decisions as well and follow the guidance of industry experts.
You’ll recall earlier “If you [eg their Concierge Doctor] want a patient FOR LIFE, visit them in the hospital,” says Dan Hecht, former CEO, MDVIP, Former Leader/Executive, PROCTER & GAMBLE (NYSE:PG), now coaching, speaking and writing with CEOhm.
Not only will your presence make an impact … but please, don’t just bring a card, candy, balloons or flowers.
You’re their personal Doctor. You’re the person with whom this Patient shares some of their most awkward failings and feelings. You should know them, their likes, dislikes, etc., You should attempt and know based on your years of experience, know exactly what hospital care “luxury items” make an unpleasant hospital stay, tolerable or dare we say, darn near likable.
Have “at-the-ready” a Hospital Patient Visit Gift Basket(s) you can bring with you.
These are personal, generic but thoughtful “luxury items” that have “at-home” and personal touches. Things like hand cream or nice soap. Or, a scented or unscented eye shield for sleeping. Or perhaps a new, best selling book or iPad. Yes, I said iPad …
Concierge Doctors routinely visit their Patient(s) and talk with family members in the Hospital when admitted or an emergency has occurred.
It’s not something they can predict, but they’ve recognized it is an important and personal gesture worth more than any amount of money or even life itself.
Concierge Doctors have recognized that their mere presence is important. They know that this uncommon, random act of kindness comes with a price tag which they [the Doctor] cannot put a price tag on. That is, this random act of kindness often creates a bond between the Patient-Physician for LIFE!
MD² CEO, Peter Hoedemaker says “Time is just so critical. By limiting their total number of families they have the ability to accompany patients to specialist visits, navigate their care through hospital stays and truly research every ache and pain. It’s like having a physician as part of your inner circle, as if they’re a member of your own family.”
If you want to bring something with you, what items should be included from Doctor, to Patient?
Recently we had a conversation with a Concierge Doctor who says she brings with her FOR the Patient (and family) a “GIFT BASKET” tailored personally FOR them. What items should you include in this unique gift from Doctor to Patient/Family? List your ideas/items below.