By Michael Tetreault, Editor/Host, Concierge Medicine Today
I read recently that people on average feel about 35 emotions an hour.
Makes sense, right.
So when two worlds collide, healthcare and hospitality — there’s a cataclysmic, volcanic eruption that is seemingly unspoken by many Physicians today that elicits an insurmountable tidal wave of resentment about hospitality and empathy towards this notion of ‘being hospitable’ in healthcare.
After all, you were trained for years and years to serve Patients in such a way that makes them ‘feel’ healthier and ‘feel’ more confident about their human condition and ailments.
What is often misunderstood by most Physicians we bump into, (with some exceptions, primarily those in concierge medicine, some in direct primary care and many plastic surgery) is that hospitality … is also about a feeling.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines Hospitality as “the act of being friendly and welcoming to guests and visitors.”
So, if your practice lives, dies, grows or fails based on the patient referral, it would make sense that the conversation of ‘hospitality in healthcare’ would be at the forefront of your practice/office culture. Right?
Yet from the other side of the service window today, Patients in their own words feel … “like a number …”, “feel distracted …”, “feel ugly …”, “feel a bother …”, or even “feel like I’m an interruption to the Doctor.”
Dr. Robert Pearl in chapter 5 of his book Uncaring even highlights the topic of the importance of customer services and hospitality in healthcare.
“Doctors are taught how to cure people,” notes Pearl. “But they don’t always know how to care for them.”
Here’s a thought to consider.
At the end of the day a patient comes back to your practice for a feeling. Not an answer to an unanswerable problem. Not a solution to a riddle that you and I both know takes time to solve. And, certainly, you know they’re not just coming to see you for a prescription.
They come for a feeling.
Jeff Henderson, author of Know What You Are For, says … “The reason 74% of customers don’t care if brands disappear is because they don’t think brands care about them.”
Here Are Concierge Medicine Today’s Top 10 Helpful “Hospitality Pro Tips” Any Doctor Can Use Today To Be Hospitable to Your Patients
Note: Please notice how we use the word ‘feel’ … in every tip! Remember, this stuff is important and hospitality in healthcare is about a feeling, an emotion, not just a prescription!
A person who is friendly, attentive and known by the Patients should be the one who answers the telephone within 3 Rings. It makes the Patient feel … like your attentive to their needs.
- Always Acknowledge the Patients in your waiting room, even if it interrupts what you’re doing. It makes them ‘feel’ like they’re not a number.
- Ensure All Areas That Are Seen By the Patient Are Immaculate. No exceptions. Recognize that EVERYTHING in your practice, communicates something. Particularly, the Physician’s competence. So, if the bathroom floor is dirty or the front office desk is in disarray, it makes the Patient ‘Feel’ as if the Doctor may be unsanitary, unkempt and your life, like your front desk, is in disarray.
- Move the routine, mundane appointment follow up calls to a private place in the office where visiting/waiting Patients won’t be distracted or hear these phone calls. Hint: Hearing these calls makes current Patients feel like a number.
- Be Respectful of the Patients Time. It makes them ‘feel’ like you respect them as much as they respect you.
- Always be available and remember the suggested hours are guidelines, not limitations, for satisfying patient needs. Otherwise, you make them ‘feel’ like they’re just a number.
- Any time you approach anything in your visit with the Patient, especially something that directly impacts the Patient having to do something or not permitted to do something – from your office mentality of “it’s better for us internally,” you’re communicating a feeling of something negative to the Patient.
- Attire and Personal Image are Appropriate. Your words have weight, so does what you wear. Don’t let the Patient be distracted by how casual you dress. They may just feel like your laissez faire in your medical knowledge as well.
- Author Jason Young, an author who writes about hospitality in church environments notes (and we’ve changed some of the words to be applicable for healthcare …) “Too often, we think we’re designing an experience for a guest [eg. Patient], but what we’re really designing it for ourselves. We’re designing it for regular [eg. familiar] People like us. Or worse, we are trying to create an experience for everyone, which means we create an experience for no one.”
- Most people [eg. Patients] don’t want to deal with a gauntlet of staff before they find the safety of their seat in your exam room. The structures and design of your practice which you created might be the very thing adding difficulty of their care journey. Help make the feeling of going to see their doctor, like that of going to see a friend in their own home.