Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to St. Louis. This really turned out to be a fantastic trip! I got to mingle with other docs and to spend additional time developing plans for the future of Medicine. Now, I spent four years in the Midwest, but admittedly it’s been some time. I had forgotten how common courtesy seems to permeate the entire culture of the Midwest, in stark contrast to those of the Northeast.
Again, I don’t think this is just perception, because last week when I related my experiences to various colleagues they reported similar encounters. One even called us Yankees the “Grunt Society”.
Upon arrival at my hotel, I asked the concierge if Busch stadium was within walking distance. Fortunately, not only was the stadium within walking distance, but so were the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame, the famous Arch and National Park, and riverboat dock. Fortunately, it was a warm sunny afternoon so I ventured out for about two hours.
My first stop was the stadium. I spent considerable time admiring the architecture and how well it is cared for. As baseball stadiums go, this one is magnificent. While wandering through the stadium store, and wondered if my friends would consider me a traitor for bringing home an Albert Pujols T-shirt.
Next, I ventured down towards the river. Along the way, I had the opportunity to stop for a cup of coffee. Now, this was similar to any ordinary coffee shop in any city however the counter clerk could not do enough to make sure I was completely happy and satisfied. I was actually blown away by his full attention to sure that everything was just right.
I spent some time walking through the National Park along the river. Having not been to St. Louis in 17 years, I had forgotten what a nice place this is!
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at a small city supermarket, and had a very similar counter experience. I’m beginning to think, “…is it just me? Am I more relaxed than usual, or is this place really special?”
The next day, hotel restaurants were naturally jammed during the breaks so I ventured outside and down the street once again. I stumbled upon a local restaurant in the business district, with the line almost all way out the door. I decided this would be a great place for lunch. Not only was the lunch fabulous, but also the service was absolutely impeccable. Everybody from the front counter down to wait staff wanted to make sure everything was just right, and I was completely comfortable.
In retrospect, it seems like the entire five days was magical. Not only did I get to spend some time with very special people from 20 different countries, but also was made feel right at home everywhere I went.
There is of course, a message here. People remember how they are treated at a more emotional level than they do the actual product or service they are seeking.
Therefore, it is no secret that this type of attitude, a feeling from the top down in your office has substantial impact on patients to return, refer their family and friends. and take care their finances.
This of course is a key element of Living and Practicing by Design. As much as possible, procedures must remain patient friendly. They must be easy for the staff to execute. They must be clear, and easy to understand. Patient benefits must be stressed, but above all they need to be conveyed and delivered with exceptional courtesy.
So, I would recommend that you share this message with your staff as I have. This would be a good opportunity to review point of contact systems and procedures, especially telephone and front desk procedures. Spend some time here, watching for tone of voice, and attitude etc. Anybody who is not completely focused on the patient in front of them needs to be reminded that a simple courteous attitude of service forms the basis of every encounter.
It is of course extremely important to hold your ground on policies and procedures but to convey them with genuine passion. Again, by making the benefits obvious to your patients, your entire practice benefits.
Needless to say, this is an extremely powerful time a year to reinforce these concepts with your entire team. We suggest you weave this through all holiday events you may have planned for the rest of the year.
Also, this is the perfect time to examine your own management systems, to measure their own user-friendly characteristics. Ask staff for input in terms of fine-tuning communications with the entire team for better execution.
Really take some time with this. Incorporate some of these simple ideas into policies and procedures, and regularly check to make sure they are being completely implemented. You will reap the benefits many times over.