Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Clinical Innovation, Building Trust, Twenty Clinical Innovations to Build Patient-Doctor Trust; First of a Series

This is the first of 20 blogs on building physician- patient trust. I shall describe these innovations one blog at a time.

The general proposition behind these blogs is that clinicians can always innovate to better control their destiny, satisfy patients, win trust, and improve care. I define innovation as doing things better, differently, more humanely, and more cost-effectively. Today’s patients are seeking greater compassion, convenience, choices, comfort, and cost-effectiveness.

These attributes are within most clinicians’ grasp, are commonsensical, and do not necessarily require outside help. There are, of course, many approaches to innovation at the grass roots – large and small; no tech. low tech, and high tech; or simply changes in how one views the practice. Dr. Randall Oates, a family physician in Arkansas, for example, decided he would only see complex patients requiring a physician’s professional knowledge; he would delegate to staff all other patients being seen for other reasons. His decision made better use of his time and increased coding revenues.

Over the years, I have been collecting innovations that clinicians and others tell me have been useful in their practices. I shall share them with you now, one at a time.

One - Identifying and Paying Rapt Attention to “ Moments of Truth”

In her book, Managing Patient Expectations: The Art of Finding and Keeping Patient Expectations, Susan Keane Baker, a health care speaker, educator, and consultant, said patients experience 15 "moments of truth" when dealing with a physician’s practice (A moment of truth is when patients form an impression of your practice – good, mad, exceptional.).

Calling your organization
Making an appointment
Receiving directions
Meeting the receptionist
Waiting in reception room
Waiting in exam room
Meeting the clinician
Giving a history
Having an examination
Having an invasive procedure
Giving a lab specimen
Receiving discharge instructions
Leaving the organization
Obtaining test results
Receiving a bill

These moments of truth can win or lose a patient’s loyalty. These moments distinguish one practice from another. Engage your staff in analyzing, recognizing, and practicing these moments. Improve your techniques for greeting patients, exiting your presence, using their names appropriately, sharing their personal histories. I once knew an ophthalmologist who had a card for each patient on which he would jot down some personal information. He would ask, for instance, “How is your son doing at Stanford.”

One final note. Learn to handle complaints. They are inevitable in today’s fast-paced complicated world. For this purpose, you might consider buying Susan Keane Baker’s latest book (with Leslie Bank), “I ’m Sorry to Hear That…” Real Live Responses to Patients’ 101 Most Common Complaints about Health Care (rL Solutions, 888-737-7444, www.rL-solutions.com).

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