Sometimes, we just blow it

I make it a point to share positive things that happen at GVMH in this blog and fortunately I have plenty of great material to choose from.   If I told you that we’re perfect and never screw up you wouldn’t believe me and for good reason – I’d be lying… 

We do screw up at times and there times that we drop the ball.  In the past week I’ve had two different patients express concern over the length of time they had to wait for their service. 

Wait times are one of those things that we try to control but there are situations that limit our ability to have any control at all.  Let me give you a few examples…we schedule services and appointments based on averages.  If it takes on average 30 minutes, from start to finish, to complete a mammogram then we will schedule one mammogram every 30 minutes.  If a typical physician office visit appointment is 20 minutes, then we will schedule an appointment every 20 minutes. 

The problem is, the very nature of our business lends itself to “getting off track”.  People come to us because they are sick, have a concern or are trying to stay well.  There are times that the “average” appointment is anything but and requires additional time and care.  The last thing we want is for any of our patients to feel like they are rushed or that we are not listening or paying attention to their needs.   The human body is complex and sometimes just take longer than we anticipate.  There is no way for us to avoid taking longer than we had planned at times.  When a service for one patient takes longer than planned it affects every appointment for the rest of the day.  It’s a lot like dominoes, when one falls a chain reaction occurs and the rest are soon to follow.

Delays are going to happen, we do everything we can to limit delays in our service but it is not possible to eliminate them completely.  What we can do a better job of is keeping people informed.  When we know a service is delayed it is important that we keep patients, and their family, informed of the delay.

It’s one thing to have to wait and it’s a completely different thing to know how long you’re going to have to wait.  If we know a service is delayed by 15 minutes we need to tell the patient that their service will be provided 15 minutes later than expected.  Keeping the patient informed of delays does a couple of things.  First, it sets an expectation and essentially “resets” the appointment time and in many cases just knowing how long and why they are waiting will put a patient at ease.  Second, it provides the patient the opportunity to reschedule.  Our patient’s time is just as valuable, and since they are a paying customer it could be argued that their time is more valuable, as ours.  If a service is delayed it may be best for that patient to reschedule and come back at another time.

We use a very sophisticated process to gather patient satisfaction data for all of our services and we know that the most important thing we can do to improve patient satisfaction is to keep them informed of delays.  Not only is it important to keep patients informed of delays in tests and treatments, it is the right thing to do.

For the most part, customer service is easy, it’s as easy as the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Operating Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. These are challenging and exciting times in healthcare and my blog will focus on healthcare, raising boys or being raised by boys, and living in mid America.
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