Academy of Chiropractic’s
Lawyers PI Program


Growing Your Practice #11

From the Desk of:

"Customer Service 
and Success in Hospitals"
A Lesson for Every Healthcare Provider

I consult many hospital departments from New York to California and if misery loves company, then you can take solace that hospitals are fighting for every patient and every penny. The only difference is they have a payroll that reaches into the multi-millions and cannot afford to coast for even one minute unlike an individual provider.
One critical approach that has yielded significant results is the "old-fashioned telephone." We take for granted our level of communication, but hospitals never have taken the patient centered model too seriously in years gone by because they felt without them, the patient would die. This left the hospitals in a position of arrogance and when the marketplace passed them by in the form of Medicare mandated paybacks, other retrospective audits, managed care cutbacks and regulatory tightening requiring more layers of bureaucracy with resultant spiraling costs and diminished reimbursement.
As a result, hospitals now have to compete in the marketplace, no different than you and I. A glaring example is Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. This is the facility that President Clinton had his bypass surgery and so many other dignitaries worldwide fly in to receive, perhaps the finest healthcare in the world. In most departments, they are considered the best of the best. However...if you watch television in New York, with the most expensive media costs, you will find commercial after commercial from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital trying to entice you to use their facility and bypass the competition.
Typical of the mentality of MD's in years gone by is the level of communication, or the lack thereof. A very close friend, whose wife had cancer, multiple surgeries and chemotherapy never received a call from any of her doctors post surgery. What makes it worse, was that she was receiving chemotherapy with him twice weekly. She passed away in the middle of the treatment and the doctor called...two weeks later to offer his condolence. My friend felt as if the doctor simply "checked off" a box on his chart with a cold detachment.
Understanding oncologists, as I consult for 1 oncology group, I appreciate the level of detachment required to emotionally survive in the field. It is my recommendation that the oncologist's office call on behalf of the doctor explaining that it is too difficult for the doctor to call each time and he wanted to sincerely offer his condolences. This needs to be done within a few days. For the surgeons, there is ZERO excuse for not calling. Not the staff, not a nurse...the doctor themselves.
My daughters and their friends are all having babies now. They are of that age and they all talk and I listen. One of the biggest factors that "closed the deal" for many of them on who they choose as an OB/GYN to deliver their babies is communication. There is one very good group (there are many competent groups in the region) where the doctors call the patients directly, the evening after ANY procedure to see how they are feeling and if there are any questions.  This group understands that pregnant woman are emotional, with hormones raging and extremely nervous, therefore go the "extra mile" in their level of care through communication. Do they get paid they have built an empire in the region based upon meeting the emotional needs of their consumers...their patients.
Wait a minute...
Why do people go to doctors in the first place?
1. Pain
2. Fear
They are either in pain, or fear something horribly either is wrong, or will be wrong so they want to prevent something from happening. Either way, EMOTIONS are involved and the successful practitioner will understand that in order to achieve the success desired, you need to meet the needs of your patients as even the best doctor will fail if they have no one to care for.
Hospitals understand that as previously described. In the past, emergency rooms were the "golden goose" as everything started and ended in the ER's for most practitioners. Guess what...hospitals are now advertising that they have the best emergency rooms with the least waiting time, caring doctors and nurses and making the "ER experience" less stressful for patients. In the advertising, they are meeting the emotional needs of the marketplace.
I have had family members go to specialists who have had cancer. How many of those patients weren't "critically" nervous? I have had patients will acute disc issues where the patient wasn't able to function without exquisite pain. How many of those patients were acutely nervous with fear of impending surgery if I couldn't help them? The answer is all of them and in every specialty, there is emotion, fear and pain that require a high level of communication in order to succeed at the highest level.
You get the point.
I consulted a very successful surgeon in New York 2 years ago in one of the most prestigious hospitals and departments in the world. In fact, they were rated the 6th best department in the country; no easy feat and this doctor headed a subdivision in that department. This doctor was a "world class researcher" and traveled to the Far East, Africa, South American and Europe to teach other programs his findings and surgical breakthroughs in cancer treatment. He IS the real deal and acclaimed perhaps the best in his industry...ever!
This doctor and I chatted a few times and accepted my recommendations to call both the patient and the referring doctor directly after any procedure. The result: his personal practice grew instantly and he created an immediate waiting list allowing him to do further research and more traveling and teaching without having to do the "in-hospital political dance" to secure more procedures with internal referral sources. That simple step afforded him the freedom to succeed at a higher level on his terms with a simple step of communication rendering better healthcare without a scalpel in his hands.
The key is communication and you need to communicate with your patients. After every report of findings, you personally need to call your patients. Many of them are confused and some in fear. It's that level of care that will be one more building block that will bring your practice to the level of success you desire. I recommend to every surgical group, that after every procedure, a call from the operating doctor be made to the patient. I recommend to every medical group, where a significant change in procedure, such as oncology, endocrinology, hematology or any other type of interventional medicine that the patient be called. I recommend to every chiropractic practice that after every report of findings, you call your patients. We are no different than any other healthcare provider.
The script is simple, "Mrs. Jones, this is Dr. Studin, I am just calling to make sure you are OK and to see if you have any questions?" 99% of the time, the patient will have 1-2 very brief questions and the entire encounter will last less than 1 minute. That will be the best 1 minute for the patient in your relationship and rest assured, they will tell their friends and family.
It is also VERY GOOD HEALTHCARE from a caring provider.