Patient Relations and Staff Recovery: Lessons Learned

“If you went to your favorite restaurant with your spouse and waited 34-minutes to be seated and then waited another 17 minutes for the waiter/waitress to bring you your menus … and then we’re told that the Chef is out today but don’t worry, you’ll still be served and billed an extraordinary amount of money for your date night, would you keep going back? The answer is rhetorical but in today’s highly customer-focused marketplace, why is it that the Doctor’s office is the place where customer service is the last thing we expect? We expect a level of quality and service from a great hotel. We expect a level of service from our mechanic? And, we expect a level of customer service and attentiveness when we ask a question at a retail shop. And why not? We’re paying for it. Yet, when it comes to our Doctor … we acknowledge and concede the status quo is simply acceptable. After all, most Doctor’s offices are swamped and their schedules are over booked. We all know great Doctor’s who are constantly pushing the needle and believe it or not, they are out there. They might be hard to find and may even be in your backyard, but they’re out there. Where are they learning from? What is their secret to overcoming an over committed schedule? How do they do it exactly? And, how is it precisely that these social graces (e.g. kindness and creating a better way or a closer relationship with a Doctor) in their exam room(s) today are constantly being repeated?” ~Editor, Concierge Medicine Today


  • Introduction: To say a patient is a customer is like putting butter in your grits! It’s just not right. Or is it?
  • Why we’re Losing Human to Human Conversations at a Rapid Rate and its impact on innovation in healthcare.
  • The Hospitality Industry (e.g. Concierge service; Non-Medical)
    • These services normally encompass assistance in hotels, apartments, and office buildings for personal services.
  • Why Kindness, Respect, Availability and Exceptional Customer Service In Healthcare Will Never Get Old.
  • Present Day: Where is a “Concierge” service offering or form thereof in healthcare operate and how will it be implemented or used in 2022?
  • Concierge Medicine and High-Touch Healthcare Business Models.
  • In a category all its own “concierge medicine” is something every Doctor can all aspire to provide. What is it to you? Is it a Noun? Or, is it a Verb. I’ll let you decide.
  • Where are great Doctors finding new ideas and learning to innovate?
    • Hint: In some of the most unusual places!

By Michael Tetreault, Editor, Concierge Medicine Today (CMT)/Host, The DocPreneur Leadership Podcast

There’s a healthy tension or maybe even the slight raise of an eyebrow that happens in healthcare when we say one medical practice or Doctor may be better than another.

Would it surprise you to know that every Patient (new or existing) that walks in your medical office is keenly aware of what makes one office or Doctor better than another?

It’s not easily recognizable to on paper. It’s not even fair. But, it is something we all know and want.

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The customer (e.g. Patient) has performance metrics they use today that they’ve always used to evaluate a Doctor.

Scheduling; Kindness; Friendliness; Hospitality; Staff; Insurance Compatibility; Expertise; Follow-Up; Etc.

A Patient is still a Customer, whether we want to admit it or not.

They vote with their feet, their wallet and often times will leave you reviews online.

So, what makes Concierge Medicine as a business model ‘Uniquely Better’ or even ‘Uniquely Different’ in the eyes of the Patient (e.g. Customer)?

Is it the intangibles? Is it the unhurried atmosphere? Is it that the first visit with my Doctor last three hours? Is it that he/she and I are like-minded?

Well, to unpack and learn the answer, lets look at another example of a Uniquely Different business and how that company/business adjusted to meet the needs of its customers.

A couple of years ago, a similar question was raised when Netflix was competing with Blockbuster.

In the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, the moderator and author, Andy Stanley stated it this way. The way Netflix pivoted towards being Unique is an example of a company that recognized a uniquely better way of doing things and adjusted to meet future needs of its customers. Today, the responsibility of Doctors is to create a culture in your practice that recognizes rather than resists uniquely better. Concierge Medicine is a unique example of that. Someone recently said it like this … “Uniquely better is often the by-product of circumstances successful organizations are trying to avoid.”

Insightful, right?

Still, those three million subscribers are dwarfed by the approximately 130 million users currently signed up for Netflix’s streaming service. Speaking to Variety, CEO Ted Sarandos said that the company “never spent one minute trying to save the DVD business” and this was always the direction things were headed.

Other Examples of a UNIQUELY Different and Potentially BETTER PRODUCT or SERVICE That Are Resonating With Customers

  • Top Golf Driving Ranges – Twin brothers Steve and Dave Jolliffe had sold their mystery-shopping business and were looking for a new project in 1997. Both golfers they began complaining about golf’s issues, time factor and lackluster driving ranges. Looking to improve the game, the Jolliffes looked to the then newly commercial microchip technology and placed them in the golf ball. Then they designed a new game, Topgolf, around it and a redesigned driving range.
  • Steaming Movies & TV Vs. DVD – According to IndieWire, You may have forgotten that Netflix still mails DVDs to people, but three million subscribers haven’t. That’s according to a new Variety report on the company’s state of affairs, which notes that, at $7.99 per month or higher, the streaming giant’s DVD plans bring in around $50 million per quarter. Still, those three million subscribers are dwarfed by the approximately 130 million users currently signed up for Netflix’s streaming service. Speaking to Variety, CEO Ted Sarandos said that the company “never spent one minute trying to save the DVD business” and this was always the direction things were headed.
  • INSIDE LAX Airport Lounge | A Doctor too? Making the Airport Lounge Uniquely Better

  • And that’s just four random examples of what we found around the topic of “Uniquely Better” in 10-minutes online
NOTE: The business of “concierge” service outside of healthcare is remarkable and quite large. It is no wonder that healthcare is still in a learning phase with all that this industry has to offer to people across the globe. In fact, IBIS World wrote in their August 2018 Business Concierge Services Industry in the US: Industry Market Research Report that Concierge-level service is becoming more popular among small business start-ups. IBIS World stated in their report (Note, This figure Does NOT Include Concierge Healthcare] that the “concierge” [service] industry is worth more than $297 million in annual revenue each year. We should also mention that the reports and other educational articles referenced and cited below, do not include Concierge Medicine in their “concierge” definition(s).  For the purposes of this educational article by Concierge Medicine Today (CMT), the Editor’s at CMT have separated the unique healthcare offerings under the services we entitled Concierge Medicine and High-Touch, Membership Medicine marketplace to show how the business and service lines of outside “concierge” industries have influenced innovators in healthcare and are currently being implemented and used in the healthcare marketplace today.


My first job, therein, my first boss — when I was working in college now twenty years ago (whom by the way he is actually the newly elected Mayor of a great city in Tennessee) told to me something I have never forgotten.

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He said “Michael, there are three things you need to know about job security. First, know where everything is in the office at all times. Second, know all of the best places to eat for lunch and third, learn to write an amazing thank you note … so people know how much you care. Encouragement may seem small in the form of a note card, but it can be a significant moment in someones life.”

I actually wish he would have put a fourth onto that statement. The fourth would be, “You may be right, but be kind [to everyone].”

So, dove tailing into this topic about kindness in business, what about kindness, respect for another persons schedule, finances and the like but applied in healthcare? What does it look like and where does it exist? How is it being implemented and where are fresh new and innovative ideas for healthcare coming from?

We all know the gradual decline of great or even satisfactory customer service over the years has created a big opportunity for businesses. It’s one of the reasons why Concierge Medicine is so popular to so many people. It’s been imitated and replicated in hospitals, urgent care environments, direct care programs and many others. Even more, when was the last time a Doctor or a medical practice staff or team member made an emotional connection with your customer.

Whoah! Wait just a minute! Did I just say customer?!

That’s just not right some would argue, and believe me, plenty still do. To say a patient is a customer is like putting butter in your grits! It’s just not right.

But when was the last time a Doctor’s office thought about brand loyalty? Very few do because of the healthcare marketplace we are all familiar with. When was the last time the Physician CEO/owner or operator of a small medical office sat down with his or her team and strategically designed and cultivated an office culture that the customer (e.g. Patient) actually wants to visit? You and I both know it rarely happens. But, I can tell you that sometimes it does. It happens in this odd place in healthcare called Concierge Medicine. To some, this is a career lifeline. To some who misunderstand its culture, its purpose and vision, it’s a cuss word. In the paragraphs ahead of you today, I want us to start thinking differently and act intentionally. I want more Doctor’s leaning into their entrepreneurial gifts and begin examining their own vision for unique customer experiences and start identifying service pitfalls in their practice that must be eliminated in order to establish a high-performing, high-touch, precision medical practice that puts the Doctor and the customer together.

Patients Weigh-In On Their Doctor

Let further unpack a Patient survey we referenced earlier clarify the talking point.

We asked Patients, “If Your Doctor Went Out of Business, How Much/Little Would You Care?”

  • 49% said “Not At All. Glad They’re Gone. I Wanted A New One Anyway.”
  • 41% said “It Would Be Inconvenient But I Didn’t Have A Relationship/Care Either Way With Physician.”
  • and only 10% said “Call The Mayor! Save This Business! They Would Absolutely Be Missed! Don’t Let This Medical Office Close! We Have To Save It!”

A Patients attention span is determined by the quality of the presenter. When you invited friends over to your house for an important conversation, do you not tidy up the place? Do you not remove every obstacle, seen or otherwise, that might impede or distract from what you have to say to them? Of course we do.

With all the talk about how many Patients are not following a Doctor’s orders, the diminished attention spans of people today, eliminating distractions both inside and outside the office should be a clarion call for all of us today to change the experience of going to a Doctor. If the next time you went out to eat and the table at the restaurant was dirty from the prior customer(s) and no one did anything about it but proceeded to serve you anyway and act like nothing is wrong … would you come back?

“If I’m paying any amount of a monthly [or annual] subscription to see my doctor, you better know my name when I arrive and I sure shouldn’t have to tap on the glass when I walk-in. And please, move the phone to the back of the office so I don’t have to hear your staff calling in prescriptions or making specialist referral calls.” ~M.C., True Story, Actual Patient, (C) Concierge Medicine Today,

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I also like what Katia Meza also wrote on October 30, 2016 where she said “Concierge Services have become ‘democratized’ as a range of services has emerged to support the needs of a wide variety of people at all income levels. While some businesses have carved out a niche working with high net worth individuals, an emerging group of concierge businesses is focusing on fulfilling everyday needs of people who do not have the time or inclination to complete certain tasks themselves.”[14]

I will do my best to share the most frequent types of today’s concierges that we’ve encountered.

  1. Hotel Concierge
  2. Concierge Doctor
  3. Employee Concierge
  4. Residential Concierge
  5. Personal Concierge
  6. Patient Concierge
  7. Cancer Center Concierge
  8. Emergency Department Concierge
  9. Maternity Concierge
  10. Corporate Concierge Service

Areas of Business in the Hospitality Industry Also Include:

  • Arena/Attraction
  • Casino
  • Fine Dining
  • Wineries
  • Country Club
  • Cruise Lines
  • Foodservice Management Firms
  • Hotel Management Firms
  • Hotel/Resorts/Spa

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Standford Medicine: A call for extended bedside-manner training |

The article outlines four principles that guide Stanford Medicine‘s approach to teaching bedside manner and describes a Stanford pilot program for an assessment that’s modeled on the Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) PACES examination, which is administered around the world.

That one I actually learned from a Concierge Doctor years ago when I interviewed her and asked her “What advice do you have for your fellow Doctors?” What a great answer to that question.

Would you like to know a secret about Concierge Medicine? I’ll tell you! They don’t stop innovating where others do. You see when a Doctor stops innovating it’s usually because they are afraid to try and fail. When was the last time a Doctor was celebrated for trying something that didn’t work? I’ve often said “Great Doctors blaze trails for others to follow and then send back maps.” This is the path to discovering what could be and should be in healthcare and that my friend, will never get old. ~Editor, Concierge Medicine Today

So how do we circle back around and apply this to healthcare?

When applied to healthcare, we also know from experience that Doctors are no strangers to the odd, if not weird question. On some random ride home they’ve often told us that yes, they have thought to themselves and said to at some point to someone … ‘Well, that was a really weird question …” or “Huh. That’s a first! I’ve never actually been asked that one before.”

We all have a lot of questions. And sometimes, those questions come at the oddest moments.

For example, my kids always ask me the strangest questions sometimes too!

Yesterday, while gathering firewood with my five year old she asked me “Daddy, how did God make trees?” Another question one of other my kids asked just last week was “Daddy, what’s after yellow in the rainbow?”

We’re Losing Human to Human Conversations at a Rapid Rate

The connected world’s larger behavioral impact is more on how we interact with each other on a daily basis. A 2014 study—“The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices”—looked at the effects that phones have when people talk face-to-face. Observing 100 friendly couples having a 10-minute conversation while their phone was present, researchers noticed that the individuals still continued to fiddle with their phones. When those same couples conversed without a phone present, their conversations resulted in greater empathy.[7]

There are moments still today when we abandon technology and turn to our neighbor to ask a question.

RELATED STORY | Beth McKibben | Southern Kitchen
Why the Pineapple Became the Symbol of Hospitality: There’s serious history behind it.

However, this conversation as we know it yesterday is actually a declining conversation between human and human. Many of us barely know our neighbors anymore. If you’re like many people we talk to, you’re turning to Google. Beyond that, we’re turning to WebMD, Alexa or even Siri. Have you ever asked Alexa if she’s smarter than Siri? Even more interesting, ask either of them if they’re becoming self-aware? You’ll smile at the Terminator movie reference but from the answers you might receive from Alexa or Siri, you’ll actually raise an eyebrow to how close we are coming to one day realizing we are back in the movie Terminator Judgement Day. In technical terms, sociologists and technology writers call it today, “Conversational Commerce.”

Conversational commerce refers to the intersection of chat bots and ecommerce, has become more viable over the last year due to advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Brands that engage with consumers via chat can now go well beyond canned and scripted dialogues, instead utilizing AI and natural language processing that simulates a conversation that gets richer over time. As the bot interacts with customers, it applies those cumulative interactions to improving the conversation, learning more about each customer with each new conversation.[6]

Today, I want us to take a look behind the curtain and have a conversation that pertains not simply to Concierge Medicine, but the other industries that have utilized successfully a “concierge” service approach. I want to examine how the service industry of “concierge” parallels with what Doctors can do, should do and are doing to move this forward thinking and early adopter niche in medicine today to what we know presently as “Concierge Medicine.”

Today, there are a number of ways to define the term “Concierge”. Personally, when it applies to healthcare, I would define it something like this …

Concierge Medicine is about Doctors that work hard to exceed the expectations of every single person under their care (aka the Patient, consumer, customer, guest, client, VIP, partner, or employee). They’re efficient, responsive, resourceful, knowledgeable and experts at problem solving and excel at relationship building. They use only efficient technology and the latest precision medicine test(s) that create a better relationship between Patient and Physician. They find the latest evidence based medicine insight to make the most qualified decisions and present that evidence to their patient. They have access to some of the best in class specialists and facilities in the world. They realize that a little encouragement on the phone means more than office visit. They welcome, inform, and serve every person who walks or calls their practice. They realize that healthcare is also about the little things and that caring is part of the prescription. They provide a remarkable guest and patient experience for everyone and they understand that experience depends on a number of factors: staff training, communication, accessibility, leadership, signage, facilities, and the overall “feel” of the office or practice. Their goal, in every interaction with every patient is simple: A Concierge Doctor is their to exceed their expectations of hospitality and meet them where they are with a smile and an answer.

In a category all its own “concierge medicine” is something every Doctor can all aspire to provide. What is it to you? Is it a Noun? Or, is it a Verb. I’ll let you decide.

Stephanie Watson from wrote “the roots of the title, “concierge” are from the Latin word conserves, meaning “fellow slave.” The word itself is French, meaning “keeper of the keys.” During the Middle Ages, concierges did just that. When castles across Europe hosted visiting nobility, the concierge kept the keys to the castle rooms, and ensured that guests had everything they needed during their stay. By the 1800s, a number of buildings in Europe, from government offices to prisons, had their own concierge on staff. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the concierge position emerged in the United States, although hotel bell captains and front desk staff had unofficially been performing the same duties for many years. Thomas Wolfe is known as one of the first American concierges. He worked in Europe for several years before taking up a position with the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco in 1974, and he founded the original West Coast chapter of Les Clefs D’Or (the West Coast and East Coast chapters eventually merged to form the organization’s modern incarnation). (Source: History and the Future of the Concierge Industry; How a Concierge Works; By Stephanie Watson)

“First and foremost, we put a major emphasis on training for all employees, no matter their department or title. Every new employee must attend a mandatory New Employee Orientation before they are allowed to serve a guest. During this training, there is a strong focus on The Ritz-Carlton culture, which is referred to as The Gold Standards.” ~Bill Marriott; April 2011; Good Training Leads to Service Excellence

Where are some of the most innovative Concierge Medicine Doctors finding new ideas and learning to innovate?

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Hint: In some of the most unusual places! These are just a few resources our readers tell us they consistently reference. Email us at to tell us what your reading, where you might be learning and what magazines and conferences you’re attending!

  • Innovative Doctors are reading, a lot!
    • The most successful Doctors tell us at Concierge Medicine Today and The DPC Journal that they’re reading two or more business and strategy books every single month.
  • Personality and Attitude Tests
  • Professional Development and Certificate Programs (not CME courses)
  • Precision Medicine Conferences
  • Business Magazine Subscriptions
  • Podcasts and Audible Book Downloads (e.g. audio podcasts and downloadable books)
    1. The DocPreneur Leadership PodcastPacked with great Physician and entrepreneurial interviews about bringing the Physician and Patient closer together inside unique practice environments, this podcast is now ranked #9 on the list of the most influential healthcare leadership podcasts today! From unpacking the business of medicine to entrepreneurial innovation being invented by Physicians around the world to precision medicine and genomic educational insight they cover it all. It also highlights news about the healthcare tech industry and what’s happening inside and outside of Concierge Medicine practices, boutique models, mobile medicine practices and direct primary care all in one place each week. Each episode is different and fresh with experienced DocPreneurs and successful Physicians giving you their insight. This educational podcast has hosted guests that include: The White House Physician, Dr. Connie Mariano; Dr. Kyra Bobinet, Founder of neuroscience firm, engagedIN; Dr. David Karow, CEO of Human Longevity (HLI) & The Health Nucleus; Richard Nordstrom; Dr. Brandon Colby; Dr. Laura Purdy and many more.
    2. HBR Idea Cast – Sarah Green is an editor at the Harvard Business Review and she also interviews major names like Eric Schmidt from Google in her podcasts. This one truly has amazing and educational content.
    3. Youpreneur FM – Chris Ducker bares it all with his Youpreneur FM podcast on how to create a personal brand. He is an amazing interviewer that asks the right questions to get the most out of his guests.
    4. Entrepreneur on Fire – John Dumas’ Entrepreneur on Fire interviews exceptional entrepreneurs and discusses strategies that can really transform a business or even an enterprise.
    5. Marketing Over Coffee – Christopher Penn and John Wall talk about new marketing trends and the latest digital marketing news in their Marketing Over Coffee podcast. What you should analyze, how strategy can improve your sales and other crucial marketing questions are discussed in this show regularly.
    6. Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leader Series – The Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leader Series podcast is different from all of the others on the list. The Leader Series are lectures on entrepreneurship from famous speakers such as Ben Horowitz, Liz Wiseman and many more.
  • One, Two and Three Day Professional Development Programs (not CME courses)
    • The DocPreneur Leadership Academy
    • The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center
    • The Disney Institute
    • Virgin Hotels Corporate People Development Program(s)
    • The Concierge Medicine Forum (The Industry’s Annual Conference)
      • Jam packed for now three days with: workshops; breakouts; Precision Medicine courses; patient marketing skills classes; member retention strategies; staff development; succession and retirement strategies; etc.)
    • The J.W. Marriott Brand
    • The Build Institute | Detroit, MI
      • We help people turn their business ideas into reality by providing them with the necessary tools, resources, and support network in Detroit. To date, we have graduated over 1400 aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs from our classes, many of whom have gone on to start successful businesses in the city. In addition to classes, we offer networking events, mentorship, connections to resources and a nurturing community that allows ideas to develop and flourish over time. With a little support, a lot of hard work, and a friendly nudge, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.
    • University Customer Service Excellence Certificate Courses
      • Example, eCornell by Cornell University – “Great service isn’t just a customer benefit; it’s a competitive differentiator in any industry. The courses in this certificate program leverage today’s leading customer service strategies to help you raise the standard of service excellence for your organization, business unit, division, or team. You’ll learn to assess the market needs for the service provided by your organization and develop the leadership competencies needed to create a consistent culture of empowerment and continuous improvement that will inspire exceptional service, every time, everywhere.”
    • Four Seasons Customer Service Training Programs
    • Marriott Management Philosophy Training
  • Online and Webinar Courses and Curriculum (Distance Learning)
    • Cruise Line Professional Development Courses
    • Certified Guest Service Professional (CGSP®)* Training Course(s)

Lessons for the Optometric Practice from Ritz-Carlton

Remember, success in modern healthcare delivery today and tomorrow will require the implementation of kindness in every detail. From the parking lot to the front desk, your interior clinic design, your clinic culture, your smiling face and even your technology — all of this will help to create a memorable, one-of-a-kind experience for your Patient, consumer, employees and community alike.

I’ll close this topic today with a quote I just absolutely love from Virgin Hotels VP of People, Clio Knowles. She said in a recent interview, “If we truly live the culture every day, it becomes part of the fabric of who we are as a company, and in order for it to become embedded in our daily lives, we have to reinforce it regularly.”

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