Andrea Hardaway, MBA LSSBB
Performance – Process – Projects
I sprained my ankle in 2015. It’s sort of an embarrassing story, really. Let’s just say, it starts with a group of MBA students gathering in a room… fast forwards to the largest game of tag EVER… and ends with me being, basically, carried out of the room and transported to the nearest emergency room.
Thankfully, my ankle was not broken. However, over the next year, I found myself falling down several times. My ankle had been so weakened by the initial sprain that it was continuing to give out (i.e. “roll”).
The Impact of it all
I fell down 4 or 5 times. Of course, it had to be at the most embarrassing of circumstances (like down the stairs at home when visitors were there, on the sidewalk outside of work, and during my niece’s photoshoot before her send-off to her first prom). Oy!
Even worse than all of that… I was in pain most of the time (the kind of pain that wakes you up in the middle of the night)!
So, yeah, I wasn’t that fun to be around on quite a few days. I was kind of cranky (and cranky is not a good look for me…. AT ALL!)
Now comes the fun part… getting treated for the issue. (I know, I know… “fun” is kind of an odd way to explain medical care). Nonetheless….
Anyone who knows me (or frequents my posts), knows I am completely addicted to a great customer experience! So, I HAD to take this opportunity to tell you about my amazing experience as a patient!
My doctor (Dr. Wamack at the Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics) provided service and care at a level that was nothing short of exceptional.
Dr. Wamack treated me for over a year. The entire time, I knew surgery was an option. However, he wanted to be absolutely and undoubtedly sure every other option had been explored… before choosing an invasive procedure.
The final prognosis and moment of terror!
I won’t get into all of my treatment details. However, after several months of non-invasive and consistent attention, my ankle started doing a lot better. My pain levels decreased significantly. I was able to do most everyday activities with very little trouble.
My ankle issues were no longer generalized, but could be targeted to a specific area and condition. So, Dr. Wamack recommended we try a cortisone injection.
I won’t lie… I was TERRIFIED! I’d heard horrible stories regarding the experience of getting a cortisone injection. I was FREAKING OUT! Dr. Wamack, however, remained calm.
He talked me through exactly what would happen and explained every way he would help make the experience as painless as possible.
He even went above and beyond. He had a Nurse come in to hold my hand and talk with me through the procedure. She was AMAZING! She kept me calm and talked to me the entire time.
Before I knew it… the injection was done. I’d barely felt anything. As a matter of fact, I’d gone from freaking out and being on the verge of tears to looking into the eyes of a stranger (the nurse) and laughing hysterically about random facts that would have (at any other time) seemed completely insignificant. However, in that moment, they were significant. They were the things that got my mind off of the thought of impending torture and turned my focus towards life beyond the injection.
So, what was it… really?
In thinking over my treatment at the Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics, what was it that really made my overall experience one of excellence?
I mean, let’s be real, I didn’t enjoy having to schedule my days around doctor’s appointments. I didn’t enjoy knowing the exam or physical therapy would increase my pain level for the day. I mean, there was still a lot of waiting in the process (and no patient likes to wait).
However, even with those things that seem inherent to any healthcare experience, this Practice got so many things right along the way.
From a patient’s perspective, I could certainly boast about:
- Their patient portal (which made everything amazingly easy – from scheduling, to follow-up instructions, to paperwork).
- The transparent and highly effective communication between Dr. Wamack and the highly skilled Physical Therapist (Andy Gean)
- The registration process that is streamlined to perfection!
- The way they are completely transparent regarding wait time
- The cleanliness of the waiting rooms, exam rooms, and even the bathrooms!
- The hot coffee available to guests (yes, “guests”. I felt more like a welcomed guest than a patient)
- The consistency of processes across multiple office locations
- The fact that they ASKED for my patient feedback (live and via a really simple survey)
I could go on and on about some of the tactical improvements and strategic advances that were obvious at the Practice.
However, the biggest thing that contributed to my exceptional experience is the PEOPLE who represent the brand.
They TOTALLY get it!
I always say… patients do not experience teams or departments. They experience your entire system (your brand); one person and one process step at a time.
The Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics totally gets it. I have not had a single negative encounter with anyone in the office. There is a standard of compassion that is exemplified by every staff person. It is NOT the type of standard that mutes individual personalities. Instead, it seems to be a standard that allows each team member to be their best self; to stay connected to the reason they chose to work in healthcare to begin with.
So, what’s the lesson for other healthcare organizations?
So, let’s be real… Healthcare is a tough industry! There are always so many moving parts. With all of the pressures to deliver high quality clinical care, there is more and more pressure to also deliver an exceptional patient experience.
The reality is, there is no perfect process for healthcare operations. There are best practices that can be employed, standard patient satisfaction measures that provide guidance on what to focus on, and tons of ideas to constantly make things better.
However, as long as there are imperfect people with unique needs and preferences, it will be impossible to offer the *perfect patient experience*.
Some healthcare organizations make it their mission to never receive any negative feedback from patients. However, in my opinion, this is a very flawed approach.
While nice comments and top-box scores are wonderful, the real goal should be to create an environment in which patients actively engage in your journey to excellence.
Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics is deliberate in their quest to deliver an excellent patient-focused experience. As a patient, I could see many indicators of how much they were working on my behalf. Because my care experience felt more like a partnership (one where I had an equal level of equity), I found myself taking a vested interest in their improvement journey.
Partnerships need praise from it’s members. Even more importantly, partnerships need insight, ideas, honest feedback, trust, integrity, and a willingness to do the work to make it great.
As the patient in the partnership, the best thing I could do, was provide feedback that let them know how great they were doing and also point out things that would make the patient journey even more exceptional. You see, because of the culture, I felt confident that Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics was hungry to continue providing value and identifying areas of opportunity.
I am happy to say, I was right! The leadership at the Practice were highly receptive to my feedback and recommendations. They humbly accepted praise of what was working well, while asking questions and taking relentless notes regarding potential opportunity. (Actively engaged leadership at it’s best!)
Finally, to the patients out there
Let’s do our part to help make our experience the best it can be. Instead of thinking of ourselves as only being a patient who receives a service, let’s take the perspective of being a partner in the delivery of our care.
Here are some things you can do to help make the partnership a success:
- If you get registration paperwork ahead of time, fill it out.
- If you’re running late for an appointment, call.
- If you don’t understand something the doctor says, ask them to clarify.
- If you’re uncomfortable, let someone know.
- If you have concerns, share them.
- If you receive a survey, fill it out.
- If you see something going right, let them know.
- If a staff person smiles at you, smile back.
Every patient is a person and every person has a story. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. 🙂