The Healthcare Experience

Daily perspectives of a healthcare executive in pursuit of patient safety, the premier healthcare experience, an engaged & healthy workforce and life balance.

Are you trying to sign your customer service issues away?

Customer Service Signs

“Signs, signs, everywhere signs

Blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind”

(Five Man Electrical Band (1971)

A few years ago I went to my primary care office for my annual check-up. When I walked into the waiting room there was a sign on the wall that read “If you haven’t been helped within 15 minutes, please check back with the front desk.” Overall the office had always been very efficient and helpful, and I rarely waited for more than a few minutes, so I certainly don’t have any complaints. But it did make me wonder why anyone would put up a sign like that.

Like most organizations the customer experience was of utmost importance to this organization. And I am guessing that the sign was well intended to hopefully prevent someone from “being forgotten” in the waiting room. But……shouldn’t we make sure our systems work well enough we don’t have to rely on our customers to fix our issues for us? The fact that sign needed to be there indicates that there are issues in the office with patient flow. I don’t think the best solution is to put up a sign and pretend we have solved the problem. The first step should be designing a system that ensures patients don’t have to wait long, and if there is an unforeseen circumstance that we know who we need to keep informed! 

Over the years I have observed many signs. For example in a bathroom I have seen signs that read, “If anything in this bathroom needs our attention, please call xxxx.” Again I believe this is well intentioned but I think it sends the wrong message. We should have a system in place to make sure our bathrooms are clean and in working order. Putting up a sign does not inspire confidence; it may be less labor intensive than other alternatives, but if we believe a great patient experience is paramount, that alone cannot be the decision point.

In another waiting room I observed multiple signs that said “We do not take xxxxx insurance.” I guess we expect our patients to read the sign, leave our facility and find someone who cares at that point. While I appreciate the fact that insurance and costs of care are pain points for our patients, we should be having conversations with these patients and help them find the nearest or most convenient place that would take their insurance. It allows us to engage with one of our customers and help them get what they need. There’s a chance they may come back for another service with us in the future!

Now, I do believe that there are good reasons to have signs in our facilities. Some may be required by law (“Employees must wash hands prior to returning to work”). Some might be helpful with way finding. Some may prevent people from doing something hazardous. All I am suggesting is we should think before we put up a sign that is convenient for us but sends an entirely different message to our customers. If I walk into an office and there are multiple signs plastered all over the place in my opinion the customer experience has taken a back seat to other objectives.

What do you think? Are there any signs that you think would be acceptable? What signs have you observed that have made you question the why?

Dennis Bruens

V.P. Regional Cancer Center

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The Optimal Workplace Environment: Bridging Provider Work Life and Well-being

I'm one "click" away from a meltdown!

Recently, I was part of one of our clinical service line annual retreats. The focus was on several performance goals in support of our organization's strategic priorities.  The group's dialogue constantly moved us towards a shared vision. It was inspiring and refreshing to be part of this discussion.  

So many conversations in healthcare and around the nation are polarizing. An "all or none" or "a win or lose only scenario".  Even as health and well-being is discussed, many people want to stick with one view... People will share only one view..."it's all about lifestyle behaviors or the payment models/how and who gets paid or just take medications or just get the surgery or my patients will never comply".  Each view is a narrow lens of keeping our patient's overall care at the center of all our clinical decisions. There really needs to be a balance of all aspects of health to better meet our patients' needs. This includes clinician and staff's workplace wellbeing.  One example brought up in our retreat was around the electronic health record and the number of "clicks' to enter the necessary information. There is a delicate balance between ensuring high safe, quality care and exhausting those who are providing the care.

In the book, Mindful Healthcare: Healthy Team, Healthy Business, Dr. Wayne Jonas references the Quadruple Aim, focused on clinician's work life as well as the need to look at real ways to "transform" healthcare. He states, "as our policy leaders debate coverage, pre-existing conditions, central vs. local control, and the role of government in healthcare as it is, they will continue to miss healthcare as it needs to be and can become."  Our role in healthcare is to collaborate across our system and community, with patients and key partners in pursuit of an improved healthcare delivery system. 

What can you do to advance health in your organization?

We all know in order to take better care of our patients, you need to stay focused on the needs of your team.  Think about what is contributing to better clinician and staff work life and well-being. Also give thought to what takes away from this. If you are not sure, just ask your team and you will find out in 5 minutes! 

Try moving forward with small tests of change so you are better able to disrupt outdated care models and work processes. These steps could include:

1. Frame the vision and goals, facilitating the discussion and work towards a shared vision;

2. Understand your current outcomes and variances against national benchmark;

3. Review your work processes, work loads and work situations which contribute or reduce work place stressors;

4. Appreciate the need to reduce staff "burnout" and share stress management techniques to improve staff resiliency; and

5. Acknowledge that exceptional care can not be achieved consistently without the focusing on the wellbeing of your team.

Healthcare organizations need to learn from our health system as well as other industries.  Please share ways you are creating an optimal workplace environment in your organization. 

Game on!

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