Friday, July 1, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 33: A Two-Question Rx for Doctors

“Every child has to eat at least a pound of dirt before they grow up” is the wisdom many family doctors imparted to parents years ago. A holistic and humanistic approach that is lacking in many of today’s medical practitioners.
It is understandable as there is more specialization, need for greater efficiencies lower reimbursements, many procedures being performed by third parties, greater use of specialized outpatient centers and labs, increased reliance on test results, and higher malpractice insurance premiums. The skilled and trained professional still exists but something is missing that patients find discomforting.
We can’t go back but let me suggest a simply way of making the patients experience better. It is a simple technique used by an accounting firm in Ohio. Just as work is completed it gives clients a prepaid postcard with two questions regarding the engagement. There is a high-response rate and always any needed follow-up is done.
Doctors could give their patients a similar postcard at the close of each visit asking: ‘What did we do well?” and “What could we do better?” Expected responses might be the doctor didn’t talk about the side effects of a medicine or a particular technician made the patient very comfortable by detailing exactly what the testing machinery would do. Of course, there must be any necessary follow-up and additional patient communication.
Adopting this approach might help in a number of ways including awareness of patients’ areas of discomfort, a testing of implementation of “best practices,” and efficiency without sacrificing effective treatment. In the age of the Internet, online reviews, social networking, e-mail, and text messaging, patients will be sharing their good and bad experiences, so obtaining customer (patient) feedback is an imperative. Doctors are not good at this. The medical establishment, including the AMA, should take notice. Perhaps that two-question prepaid postcard is a good starting point.
© 2011
The above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.


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