When my family moved to a new town last year, one of the many items on my immediate to-do list included finding a new pediatrician. Although we were still only about 20 minutes from the kids’ current physician, I wanted a change. The practice was so big that it seemed like we saw a different physician each time, which meant I kept having to provide the same information. Even though the practice was “electronic,” I had to verify each time that they were no longer on certain medications.
And so when researching pediatricians, I did something I had never done before. I turned to a user review site. I had utilized services like Yelp in the past to help choose restaurants, but never for something this important. As I soon discovered, I was missing out. When I visited the page for my current pediatrician, I learned that other parents had the same concerns about the large number of physicians, with a few also pointing out that the doctors spent much more time entering notes into the iPad than making eye contact with worried moms.
“They DID do that,” I said out loud.
When I saw the page for the practice I ended up choosing, I found that the comments were mostly positive, but with some complains about the support staff — and how long it took to book a well visit. The physicians, however, drew nothing but praise, with a mom of triplets sharing the story of how one doctor came out to her car one day to administer vaccines so she wouldn’t have to haul three eight-month-olds into the office on a freezing cold day.
I was sold. And what’s amazing is that the reviews were dead on. I have had some frustrations with the support staff, but I really like all three physicians, who make it a point to engage not just with my children during our checkups, but me as well.
I was so inspired that I did something else I had never done — I wrote a review detailing the experiences I’ve had there.
So why is this important to CIOs and other health system leaders? Simple. The consumer demand movement means that patients are becoming more particular about quality and experience, and are being more selective in how they choose hospitals and practices. And smart organizations like the University of Michigan and Cleveland Clinic are piloting techniques to encourage physicians to be more responsive to patients. By promoting compassion, especially with rewards, these organizations believe they will achieve higher patient satisfaction scores, a claim that is supported by research from Virginia Commonwealth University, according to Kaiser Health News.
And then there’s Partners HealthCare and Duke, which are taking it a step further by requiring residents to take courses to learn to be more empathetic and offering training to practicing physicians. Some organizations are offering coaching to help improve the way docs speak with patients, and others are even urging docs to send handwritten follow-up notes to patients and their families, according to a survey of 35 health systems conducted by the Schwartz Center.
These acts can make a difference — and not just in boosting HCAHPS scores. Stephen Post, director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University in New York, believes that if patients feel their physicians genuinely care, they’re more likely to take medications and comply with recommendations.
“Empathic care is a real intervention that has impact on patients’ adherence, whether they’ll come back to see the doctor or just skip town and go untreated,” he noted.
Now we’re talking about improving compliance and keeping patients out of the hospital. And in today’s healthcare landscape, that’s something that’s worth Yelping about.