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Giving patients what they want

March 30th, 2010

Whenever I find myself in the role as a customer, whether it be dining at a restaurant, shopping for a computer or enjoying a great vacation, what makes me happiest and most satisfied is when I get the feeling that the business really cares, specifically that they care about my happiness and my satisfaction. Understanding this fundamental truth has helped me tremendously in the decisions that I’ve made regarding my practice over the past decade.

So when patients come to my practice feeling justly entitled to certain expectations, it is my job to make them happy. The challenge is to get them a healthy baby in a way that is balanced with convenience, peace-of-mind, savings and maybe even a few friendly smiles from me and my staff. Despite all attempts, there still might be some times in which things don’t go perfectly and that’s the reality that exists in life. However, the ultimate judge of whether we do a great job or not is not what I say or what some advertising says, but rather what the patient says, to herself and if I’ve done my job well, what she enthusiastically says to her friends and coworkers as well.

So, I approach my decisions regarding my practice with this in mind. Naturally, the next question is what exactly do patients want? Well, we could answer this question one of two ways. We could answer in an extreme ludicrous way and say that patients want to pay $20 for an unlimited stream of IUI’s and IVF cycles until they get a baby, followed by free spa treatments and facials during their first trimester, a gift-certificate for three designer maternity outfits and lifetime catered birthday parties for the children they conceive until they reach age 14. That’s what they want. It would be nice if I could give them that, but unfortunately, I can’t.

Or we could answer the question of “what do patients want” in a more reasonable manner and acknowledge first of all that different patients want different things. Some stress the cost. Some prefer convenience. Some care about how pretty the office is. Despite a vast variety of preferences from different patients, there are certainly some things that most people value and that would be to end up with a healthy baby and to have a pleasant experience while pursuing this goal. So again, the challenge in on me and my staff to provide this. With regards to the more subtle wants and needs of the patients, that’s also up to me and my staff to figure out.

One simple way is, well, simply to ask them. “Is there anything more I can do for you?” “Was there anything we could have done to make this experience better for you?” And that’s exactly what I do. Within the course of my work day, in addition to providing medical care, I’m also on the lookout for opportunities to get feedback from patients. I also train my staff to have the same philosophy. And once again at the end of the day, it’s always the patient who gets to say whether we succeeded or not. The cool thing is that we get rewarded or punished depending on the patient’s satisfaction level. If they stay with me loyally until we get them a baby and then they go out and act as my cheerleaders, passionately spreading the word to any infertile couples they encounter, then it will be great for my staff and me. If they don’t do that, then my practice will cease to thrive and flourish.

With this in mind, we can go on to have fun and discuss what we’ve learned over the years about how to give the patients what we want. Many of the posts in this blog will specifically address things that patients have told us they wanted along with how we made changes to better give them what they want. And in the next post, we’ll discuss one of the most popularly touted wants from patients - the amount of time and contact they get with the physician.

Welcome

January 3rd, 2010

For those of you who are readers of my original blog, perhaps you know that I first started blogging in 2007. For a while, I was posting quite frequently. I loved writing about the science of fertility. I added some posts about my life philosophies as well. Then my posts started getting less frequent for several reasons. The initial excitement for me was declining, as is universally true for most new projects. Also, I had more fun new things in my life that cut into the blogging time. The final reason was my discovering what my fellow physician bloggers were sharing about some of the dangers from over-regulation of medical blogs. They got me a bit concerned about how careful we have to be. There were issues about patient privacy, issues about giving medical advice and issues about separating blogging from self-marketing. It’s because of this third item that I was inspired to start this column.

In that original blog, I write for fun, to help educate and entertain the world and as a outlet for my authentic opinions. At first, I deliberately chose NOT to include my name, my practice name or any other specific identifying information on that blog in order to dispel any suspicion that I was writing it as some marketing ploy. Now that three years have passed, I’ve learned to be more relaxed about the whole thing. I’ve gotten more than enough feedback from readers to know that the site has succeeded in being an unintrusive source of helpful information. I eventually made the decision to reveal my identity on that other site. However, it’s STILL not going to be used to promote our practice nor to brag about the things that I think makes our program great. It’s also not going to include specific intimate things that are primarily of interest only to our own patients. That’s what this site is for!

So, in keeping with my philosophy of giving people options and letting them make their own choices, I now have two sites. You are welcome to leisurely browse through this site to keep up on our practice, to visit the other site for posts that are more of interest to the general public or to hop back and forth between the two! See you around!