The following is a true story. Measure your organization´s performance against the one described below and see if you surpass it.
Saturday night my wife tells me she´s having chest pains. Having only been age 39 for three or four years, she´s not in a high risk for heart attacks, but still… When she wakes me at 6 AM Sunday morning and tells me they´re worse, we head for a hospital emergency room. On the way, my wife tries to call my insurance provider, Great West, to find out if the Heart Hospital of Austin is in our network. No answer, you see the insurance company is only open Monday through Friday 8 AM to 5 PM.
Recommendation #1 Why can´t I punch my zip code into your Interactive Voice Response system aka voice mail and get a list of hospitals in network within, oh, a twenty mile radius? Or better yet, why can´t I say the name of the hospital and be told that it´s in or out of network? How much money would that save you?
Here´s my linear thinking as I drive my wife to the hospital, I want fast action, I don´t want to go to a hospital with a crowded ER. Second, chest pains are indicative of a heart attack or heart problems and I want the best for the one I love the most. Our insurance company is not open, so we call the Heart Hospital, but whomever answers the phone cannot answer whether or not they are in network. She does tell us that our first priority should be to get to the nearest hospital. But though my wife is in serious pain, it doesn’t appear that she’s in immediate danger.
Recommendation #2 Why can´t the hospital´s check-in staff have access to a computer screen that shows the relationship they have with insurance providers? (Wait, let me answer this; it´s most likely due to a competitive environment, they don´t want to lose our business to another hospital. But, that doesn´t help me, trying to make a decision in minutes.)
We arrive at the ER around 7:30 AM. Because the hospital specializes in cardiology, the ER is empty. We spend less than 3 minutes in the reception area, then we´re whisked to a bed.
The ER physician is actually the supervisor of the regular ER physicians. He´s covering because the one who regularly works that shift is off. So we get the benefit of 30 years of experience. The nursing staff, and especially the nurse who is assigned our case, is very competent both in skills and in friendly patient service. Questions are answered, my wife is made as comfortable as possible, and both physician and nurses include me in the conversation. She´s given several drugs including nitroglycerin and morphine.
Over the course of the eleven hours we spend there, patients come and go. Because we´re in an ER where curtains replace walls, we´re able to hear the other patients give their histories and the staff talking about scheduling and other subjects during quiet times.
How people communicate, or fail to communicate, is an interest of mine (to be addressed in future posts). I´ve been around enough physicians in my day job to know that they have a laser-like focus on determining what is wrong with the patient. Both the ER physician and the cardiologist patiently, and I mean patiently, cut through the extraneous information the patients give them. Later, when talking with the hospital staff when something wasn´t done right, the cardiologist prefaces his questions with "I want answers, not explanations."?? I memorize that. Managers determining what went wrong, especially when time is critical, should learn to say the same thing as calmly as he did.
Back to our case. The only time there is a conflict in the information I´m given is when the nursing staff tells me my wife´s angiogram will take 30-45 minutes and the "cath crew"?? tells me it will take about 90 minutes. Because this is somewhere around 9AM, I seize the opportunity to go to a nearby restaurant (the hospital cafeteria is closed on weekends) and eat breakfast. But this is a minor incident, and the last information I´m given is the correct information. I´m able to eat my breakfast and return to the ER in plenty of time for my wife´s return.
The angiogram is clear and a heart attack is ruled out.
After that it´s hurry up and wait. They want to observe her as the drugs wear off to see if the pain returns, so we´re not dismissed until nearly 6:30 PM with a prescription for an anti-inflammatory pain reliever. Fortunately, I grabbed a novel on the way out the door.
We were both pleased with the care we received from the staff. Everyone we met, regardless of position was polite, competent, and friendly. I could see that someone had made "bed side manner"?? a priority, not just in the medical and nursing staff, but ALL of the staff.
Ultimately, our most important question, “Is this a heart attack?” is answered. No, it’s not. It’s pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrance which surrounds the heart. Painful, but not as serious as a heart attack.
Do your employees project that level of customer service? If not, as the cardiologist might say, "look for answers, not explanations."??
“Be careful when reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”