The Magic in Patient Experience

helping elderlyIn high school I worked in a grocery store.  One day I was bagging groceries, my first week, and the store manager came down out of his office, pulled me aside, put his arm around me and pointed to a lady walking out of the store.  “You see that lady?”  He said, “She’s got your paycheck in her purse.”

As a dumb 16 year-old I wondered why they gave my check to that lady I didn’t even know?  My Manager went on to explain that the lady could just as easily buy her groceries in other stores.   Greeting each customer, being friendly and helpful and thanking customers kept people coming to our store.  If they didn’t come back, he explained, there would be no work for me (us) and no paycheck.  I was fortunate to have that lesson stick with me.

A more recent boss taught me another important lesson.  Van Miller always made a point of telling us all, “Have Fun!”  Van liked to have a good time, so it would be easy to miss the point of Van’s “Have Fun” instruction.  While I know he did want us to have fun, his real desire was that each of our guests (customers) had the kind of experience which made a positive impact on them and which they remembered long after an encounter or event ended.  Van knew that customers like to be around people who are friendly and who are having fun – smiling, laughing, talking, welcoming, toasting and dancing.  It’s a very important part of creating an impactful experience.

The consumerization of healthcare is bringing patient experience into the forefront.  Patient experience will become the primary driver of winning business over the next few years.  The sad fact is that most healthcare providers – of all stripes – provide a really poor, or at best generic, customer experience.  Most healthcare folks are just not wired that way.  We have not been required to put the patient in the center of our world.  Patient experience includes the quality of care, explaining the therapy or treatment, exhibiting a sense of urgency and physical attributes of our care delivery setting.   But the centerpiece of patient experience is the individuals with whom the patient actually interacts.  Smiling, extending a hand, listening, solving a small problem, offering a caring ear, friendliness and creating a sense of inclusion are the things that will make a great patient experience.  Sure, curing their cancer is more important, but the fact is that doesn’t happen in very many patient encounters.

Each patient, in some way, has your paycheck in their purse or pocket.  They are our valued patients and friends, so treat them to an experience that leaves a lasting impression, including offering a smile and having a little fun!

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