Monday, March 08, 2010

I Am NOT a Table: aTale of Medical Customer Service

This morning I went in for a medical procedure, and left with some pretty strong opinions on how medical personnel can improve their customer service.

The first nurse I encountered was perfect. She walked in, greeted me immediately, introduced herself, and then, told me step-by-step what she was going to do. So that there were no surprises, she explained that she was inserting an IV in my hand, commenting that this would be the last pain I would feel for the rest of the procedure. It went down hill from there.

"I Am NOT a Table": Lesson #1
The anesthesiologist was the next person in the room. He walked in, placed my medical records on my legs (No! I am not a table) and then proceeded to review it without either greeting me or introducing himself. A few minutes later he finally decided that I could know who he was and introduced himself.

Customer service tips:
Do not use the patient as a surface to place your records, there are tables in the room. It is disrespectful to use the patient as a table.

When you walk in the room, introduce yourself to the patient immediately. The patient shouldn’t have to guess who you are and why you are there. It is stressful enough without the added mystery. What may seem like seconds to you can feel like an eternity to your patient.

"I Am NOT a Table": Lesson #2
I was then wheeled into the procedure room. The anesthesiologist nurse complained to me that she was starting to get sick and her throat was hurting her.

Customer service tip: If you are sick, you have no business working with patients. And even if you feel that you have taken every precaution to not spread your illness, there is no need to discuss it with your patient.

"I Am NOT a Table": Lesson #3
As I was waiting, other medical personnel were in the room. They all started chatting with one another as if I was not in the room, or, to continue my metaphor, like I was merely a table.

Customer service tip: The procedure room is not a place to chat with one another. If you want to chat you can talk to the patient, unless they prefer quiet, in which case you should be quiet. Not including the patient in your conversation is disrespectful and unprofessional.

"I Am NOT a Table": Lesson #4
As I was lying on the gurney I started to feel woozy. I had no idea why. I asked the nurse why I was feeling that way. She responded that she had started to giving me a sedative.

Customer service tip: Do not start giving medication without informing the patient what you are doing and explaining how she might feel from it. Feeling woozy shouldn’t be a surprise. Once again I felt like a …yes you guessed it “a table.”

So medical personnel, whether you are a Doctor, nurse, or whatever, remember that the person lying on the gurney is your customer. Treat this person with respect. Not only is it the right thing to do, it makes good business sense. If your customer/patient doesn’t like how you treated her she might never come back, or she may tell all her friends not to go to you, or even worse—she might write an article about you.


Answering Service said...

Yeah. Making the patient as a table for their record book is really disrespectful.I think a lot of medical practitioners today have already forgotten the basics of having a quality customer service as I've noticed. At the end of the day, medical customer service is about finding solutions. Patients need solutions for their medical problems, doctors need solutions for ensuring the patient care is implemented correctly and insurance companies need solutions on how to assist financially with patient care. Be timely. Address issues as soon as they come up.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach said...

You and I should definitely join efforts in trying to influence the medical world (doctors, techs, nurses, and office staff) to see us as their customers and humans needing care!

As you know I am VERY passionate about people-skills for customer service and teamwork and the medical world needs significant help.

I have encountered excellent interpersonal skills in the healthcare community yet it seems to be the exception. When I ask about it, I get this list of "reasons why" they can't do better:
Cost - Excuse me it costs nothing to be nice or interact personably.

Stress/pressure - We are not talking about the Emergency Room where I might understand abrupt treatment while my life was in grave danger.

Technical expertise - It takes a very intelligent person to become a doctor. If doctors are smart enough to learn everything about the body, they are capable of learning people-skills.

Sometimes I think I would pay the medical community to let me teach what others pay me to teach them. LOL.

Great post. I will RT it on Twitter.

Rich Gallagher said...

Wow. Horrible experience, great post Laurie. This should be required reading for anyone in health care. Ditto everything my buddy Kate Nasser said!

-Rich Gallagher, author "What to Say to a Porcupine"