What if we tipped doctors?

The delivery of healthcare is going through a paradigm shift.  Access to information has grown tremendously with widespread availability of the internet and outpouring of social media outlets.  More than ever, patients have the opportunity to take better ownership of their care.  The rise of high deductible health plans and the shift to consumer’s pockets has lead patients to demand excellent clinical outcomes and better healthcare provider experiences. For argument’s sake, let’s say that all patients who are satisfied with their care tipped 20%.  How many physicians or healthcare systems today would be getting that 20%?  That’s hard to say.  So I ask you this:

“What would you tip your physician?”

Reuter’s recently reported that physicians routinely overestimate their quality of care. See article here and abstract for the data.  My point is, that healthcare is a service industry, and patients desire and deserve a positive experience with their care.  This is particularly important because healthcare is about your life!  It’s about living the best, most fulfilling life possible.

It’s important.

Let’s examine the other side of the situation.  To say that physicians are unaware of patient desires for a better experience would be incorrect.  Physicians are aware.  Physicians are smart.  Most importantly, physicians practice medicine because they made a life long commitment to helping others.  As patients, its important to remember this.   Healthcare is not  an easy service to provide. Physicians are some of the most committed professionals I have ever met. Healthcare delivery requires significant time, commitment, energy, and expense.

As pressures from government agencies, a poor economy, and managed care companies decrease the autonomy of physician treatment and operating decisions, it is with a savvy business mind that healthcare providers must operate their practices in 2012. For example, let’s look at EMR.  In light of the government’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), and its financial penalties for providers who fail to adopt EMR by 2015, HCPs must find a way to make EMR work for them. Purchasing EMR is a huge investment. The Medical Group Management Association estimates the average cost of an EMR per physician is $33,000, takes at least 35 hours of training time, and can run maintenance costs of up to 20% per year of the purchase price.  Now factor in the time it takes to completely change the way a physician has interacted with their patients, training for the staff, multiple systems purchased, etc. etc…

2012 is not an easy time for providers.

2012 is not an easy time for patients.

find the balance
Work together to find balance.

This is where creativity and teamwork can play a major role in improving the delivery of healthcare and patient experience. Take a look at the Cleveland Clinic.  Per their 2011 newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic was the “first major academic medical center to make patient experience a strategic goal, the first to  appoint a Chief Experience Officer, and one of the first academic medical centers to establish an Office of Patient Experience.”  Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Cleveland Clinic heads up a Patient Experience Empathy and Innovation Summit, bringing together healthcare CEOs, industry leaders and physicians from all over.  For three days, attendees can gather best practices from their colleagues. They learn the tools and skills necessary to implement new strategies to improve patient experience.  Cleveland Clinic is doing things differently.  They take the patient experience seriously. They are using real metrics to measure success and failure. They have multi-disciplinary teams that meet to discuss patient feedback, and they are holding themselves accountable to providing the best care and experience possible.

How do you measure success?

Engaging on a new path that focuses not only on clinical outcomes but also on patient experience will prove to be very challenging.  For generations, physicians were judged mainly based on the outcomes they delivered.  To make this paradigm shift, a culture change is needed throughout the entire industry.  I believe we can get there.  Cleveland Clinic has already demonstrated that getting creative and utilizing teamwork can improve patient care.

What can you do? Going forward, make a commitment to live a healthy lifestyle.  The one person you can rely on to change is yourself.    Ask questions.  If you don’t like your experience- tell someone.  If you LIKE your experience- also tell someone!  Change can only happen when we work together, and that means that as patients, we are part owners in making it happen.  Be empowered:  it’s your life.

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