Healthcare is a business and today’s patients have choices when it comes to deciding which doctors, which facilities and which treatments to follow. So how can physicians, nurses and other health care professionals create WOW experiences for their customers who are often patients? In order to WOW healthcare patients and their family members, healthcare providers must follow the CARE approach.
C – Provide competent clinical care.
Every patient wants to have the best care available and believe that their doctor is the smartest, most well respected doctor in his field. Inexperienced doctors can build their reputations by consulting with wiser, more experienced doctors often.
A – Act professional and pleasant with a hopeful attitude
Years ago healthcare organizations would hire the best clinical staff (high IQ) and not screen new hires for emotional intelligence (EI). Being clinically smart and board certified was enough. Today EI is just as important as IQ. Emotional intelligence has five components which include being self motivated, being able to use empathy and having great interpersonal skills. In addition to having fabulous clinical skills, great healthcare professionals must:
develop great interpersonal skills. They must be able to speak clearly and to listen to a patient’s concerns. They must be able to translate the medical jargon to simple English so a patient understands. Active listening is critical to determining the proper diagnosis; it also makes the patient feel important. When people feel like someone is listening to them, they believe the listener cares. Becoming an active listener is not easy, there are so many distractions that we face on a daily basis.
address the customer by name and engage the customer in a personal conversation about their likes, dislikes and family background.
Use hopeful, positive language. Tell the patient what will work, not what won’t work. What they can do, not what they can’t do. How to solve their problems. Patients need hope for the future.
Look professional which includes a neat, clean appearance with a smile. Tattoos and body piercing are becoming much more acceptable today that they were years ago but many healthcare organizations have policies which prevent visible or excessive tattoos. Healthcare professionals must wear clean clothes to prevent spreading infection through clothing. Years ago it was simple to identify a doctor and a nurse. He was the one wearing the white coat and the nurse usually had a white dress and hat. Today, many physicians do not wear white coats, they wear comfortable business clothing. Nurses can be male or female and wear scrubs which is often confusing. Healthcare professionals should also look healthy! It’s pretty hard to take nutritional advice from an overweight doctor.
Eliminate icky behaviors (picking nails, chewing gum, scratching, smoking)
R – Respond in a timely fashion to patient and family requests
The word timely can be left open for interpretation. Perhaps instead of timely I should say, the sooner, the better. Patients hate to wait! A wait time of 10-15 minutes isn’t so bad. A wait time of 45 minutes or more is atrocious. When a patient is caused to wait it’s the same as saying to a patient that your time is not as valuable as my time.
If a patient has to wait, please explain to the patient why he has to wait. Perhaps the doctor was called to an emergency or the healthcare office is short staffed. Patients and family members tend to be much better with waiting when they realize that waiting is an exception not the rule. A few weeks ago I was waiting to be discharged from a hospital. I waited more than three hours for the nurse to finally review the discharge instructions with me.
E – Educate the patient & explore options with him and his family members
Most of the time, the patient and his family members need to be educated about what is going on. The healthcare profession has its own language and most lay people do not understand that language. When speaking with a patient, use common words, use metaphors and communicate current information. Repeat the information a few times. There is a great chance that the sick person (patient) will not understand or remember the communication the first time. If you are speaking with a person that does not understand English, get a translator. Many large teaching hospitals have the capability to communicate in many languages.