Achieving Efficient Practice Operations

patient-centered-approachI’ve come to the conclusion that achieving efficient practice operations comes by having a customer (not patient) service centered approach to the medical practice. I say customer and not patient because the word patient implies cared-for from a clinical perspective and a customer implies someone that we care, provide, and accommodate for their needs. Let me walk you through how I came to my conclusion.

We (health care professionals) often criticize the airline industry for their inefficiencies and poor customer service. But private practices do not fall far behind the airline industry in terms of customer experience. Granted, many of the problems health care has is due to higher cost, lower reimbursement and a burden infrastructure among many other things that may fall outside of our immediate control. Nonetheless, administrators and practice managers contribute to the poor patient experience  by not focusing on ways to improve operations with the purpose of enhancing a patient’s experience at our facilities.  If one thinks about it, health care should employ more customer service tools than any other industry. Health care is all about the patient, yet we do not always do a good job at servicing them as customers. Why not?

We can look outside our industry and find ways to improve; for example, JetBlue or Startbucks. There is a reason Starbucks charges $4.00 for a cup of coffee and is able to get away with it. They provide and exceptional experience along with their product. Starbucks probably didn’t set out to achieve efficient coffee store operations and as a result created an exceptional and unique environment that allows them to overcharge for a commodity that is generally free or close to free anywhere else. I would argue they had a customer service focused operation an as a result, they created an efficient operation that supports their customer service objective.

Why is JetBlue and Southwest able to post profits when most airlines are struggling? Is it because they have better planes? Cheaper fuel? Better food? Streamlined operations? Or is it because their number one objective is to service their customer and as a result their operations have improved by eliminating what is not necessary and focusing on what is necessary?

How often do medical managers look for ways to offer an exceptional experience to their patients that not only includes clinical care, but that also incorporates remarkable service? We often find ways to improve office flow to repair a problem that we already have. But one rarely designs a work flow that is patient centered. In other words, our solutions are more reactive rather than proactive. And that solution generally helps the practice, but generally incoveniences the patient, our customer.

So, I’ve decided to take a different perspective at our medical practice. When I evaluate how I’m going to efficiently improve my practice’s operation I’m going to first ask, how does this operational improvement, change or enhancement going to help my customer? Does this new process help me help them, or does it simply help me?

I believe that taking this approach will help my practice achieve efficient practice operations;  but more important, provide our patient with a remarkable experience when they visit our office.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Comments

  1. Nice post!
    I think you are spot on. I often use the airline analogy when working with my own health system as we move toward a customer focused approach.
    Its the perfect time for healthcare to be thinking like this!

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  2. Ay yi yi – you show me this just before I leave town for a bit! Figures.

    So, you ask what I think. The answer, to me, is clear: medical practices (and, in some way, particularly pediatric offices) are in the service business. It’s all about creating a better patient experience, only part of which is clinical return. This is particularly important in medicine because most patients have no ability to distinguish stronger clinical results, but they sure can tell you who they like and don’t like.

    But you know how I feel about this :-)

    Welcome to the blog world. Go find some free time to keep it up!

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    • pediatricinc says:

      Chip,

      Thanks for the welcome.

      I think it is important to realize that although the doctor’s beside manners is important, the ones that provide the more meaningful experience is the support staff, particularly the front desk. Yet those are the employees we pay the least.

      Hey everybody, go check out pedsource.com/blog for some serious practice management discussion.

      Brandon.

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  3. Brandon

    Good to see you in the blogosphere — and nice thought-provoking writing!

    I concur entirely.

    As one physician mentioned to me today, physicians have little idea of how to market through creating an optimal customer-focused patient experience. The kind that has the patient raving to his or her pals (more likely her!) about what a great doc she just went to.

    Every touch point (point of contact with the practice, be it the website, brochure, receptionist, voice mail, parking attendant, back-office nurse, physician or biller) needs to be examined and evaluated for patient-friendliness. And if found lacking, needs to be trained/designed to meet patient needs.

    And of course, where would you be without actually asking a core group of loyal patients a) what they love about the practice, b) what they would like to see done better and c) what would make coming to the doctor’s office an exceptional experience for them?

    Good luck as you continue your cyber-space travels!

    Philippa

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    • pediatricinc says:

      Philippa,

      I think medical practices have so much to learn. As I’ve said before, medical practices don’t run their business like, well… a business. I guess there has not been a need in the past. For the most part, doctors have always had patients to see.

      But as our current economic condition continues on a downward spiral, I suspect things are going to change. Patients are still out there, but they are much more discerning.

      Thanks for the excellent post.

      Brandon

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