After reading this issue’s cover story, I Googled “customer service books” and was directed to no less than 27 recent books focused on this topic. I had read only three of them. I suspect that most of you reading this commentary would not score any higher. But we ophthalmologists are definitely in the customer service business, and like it or not, we and our employees are being evaluated by every patient (and their family and referring doctor) during each encounter of every day.
Richard L. Lindstrom
Today’s patients want snappy service with no wait times delivered by service-focused caregivers in an impeccable, tasteful and clean environment. Come to think of it, I am one of those patients, and that is what I want from my doctors. I seldom get it, and in all honesty, my colleagues and I at Minnesota Eye Consultants find it a never-ending challenge to try to provide world-class care while also delivering world-class service with the reimbursement challenges we face today.
Early in my practice experience, I was taught by a wise senior ophthalmologist that the key attributes of the successful surgeon are the three A’s: affability, availability and, in far last place, ability. Today, when counseling a young colleague, I might add affordability (or value) and advertising (or internal and external marketing). Still, even with five A’s to consider, last place is still reserved in most settings for ability. Yet, most of us spend countless hours enhancing our medical diagnostic and surgical skills and ability while neglecting the quality of the “patient journey” our practices provide.
It is important to remember the patient journey begins with a patient, their family or a referring doctor’s first attempt to make an appointment and hopefully continues through a lifetime of quality care. Patients want Ritz-Carlton service, but unfortunately their insurance plans and our government often only reimburse at Motel 6 rates. In the face of such a daunting challenge, it is easy to become frustrated and throw in the towel. Unfortunately, that will only guarantee failure.
The successful practice of the future must focus on a quality patient journey. Start by reading a few of the excellent books available on customer service. Then, do an honest analysis of how your practice measures up. Next, go visit a practice of excellence, such as Matossian Eye Associates or Vance Thompson Vision, where everyone is totally focused on providing a Ritz-Carlton experience to every patient. Then, set up a plan to be better every day at not only the quality of care but also the customer service experience you provide your patients. You may need a practice consultant to help you, and many are available. In doing so, you will guarantee the future success of your practice.
Disclosure: Lindstrom reports he is the founder and attending surgeon at Minnesota Eye Consultants and on the board of directors of Unifeye Vision Partners.