Its What’s at the End of the Patient Experience That Matters Most

We start with a hypothetical situation.  You have just been diagnosed with a serious but not urgent medical condition and have been given two options for care.

Option A involves a health care system in which the administration just launched a patient experience campaign of which they are very proud.  You call for an appointment and the phone picks up on the second ring.   A very bubbly receptionist schedules you for an appointment tomorrow.  You arrive in the office which has been meticulously designed and apportioned with the finest furniture.  Calm music plays in the background.  The atmosphere is relaxing.  You are promptly escorted back to an examination room and placed in a very comfortable gown.  You can’t help notice the great art on the walls and wonder how much this must have cost.  In walks your new doctor and right from the start your relaxed state begins to change.  He seems nervous, rushed and unprepared.  Really doesn’t listen much.  You never become engaged in a dialogue.  There is no education.  What you don’t know is that he has thrown up the white flag and surrendered to the corporate model of medicine years ago.  He just wants to see as many patients as he can today.  The other thing you don’t know is that he hasn’t picked up a book or read a journal article in years.  Maybe goes to a continuing education meeting a year in a nice resort town.

Option B is next.  You call for an appointment and the very polite office person tells you that the next opening is a  day next week.  When you show up the office is clean but a little dated.  No music or art.  As you are led into the examination room you begin to get a little anxious about the entire “feel” here so far.  In walks your new doctor.  The visit begins with an introduction and a few minutes of small talk.  The doctor does a lot of listening and you feel engaged in your care.  You get the feeling that this person is genuinely interested in helping you.  What you don’t know here is that this doctor has refused to give in to corporate medicine model.  Even more importantly, this doctor realizes that knowledge is the foundation of quality health care.  He spends at least 2-4 hours per week keeping up with the ever-changing medical literature within his specialty.  You will receive the latest evidence based care.

So is your choice option A or option B?  Of course the goal is to have the best of both and the two are not mutually exclusive.  However, the focus of current health care leadership seems to be on everything but helping doctors practice better medicine.  Do they not understand where the most important improvements in health care quality are to be made?  Do they really think that pretty offices and timely appointments define quality health care?  Is this what the general public believes or are they smarter?

Hopefully this extreme dichotomous example will help those in leadership focus on what it really important.

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