The Physician Executive: Doctors and Customer Service

The Physician Executive: Doctors and Customer Service

A terrific entry on Customer Service, and how Medicine maybe isn’t as bad as we think. His summation is excellent:

We can lose sight of the fact that, compared to the level of service received in retail, business services, financial services, hospitality, IT and others, health care does reasonably well. We can lose sight that the law of diminishing returns dictates that significant improvements from here will be prohibitively expensive and pack only a small punch. Sometimes, the emphasis on customer service can belittle a worthy industry and its workforce.

Nobody’s perfect, and being pretty good doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try a little harder, but his payoff says it all:

Personally, I think we are doing well, and our weaknesses come to rise from the expectations that grow as a consequence of our success.

Read it all.

via Kevin Josh, MD


  1. Well thank you. I am pleasantly surprised by the positive response.

  2. I am probably way out in deep space about this, but I believe that a customer satisfaction model is a poorly transplanted concept from the retail sector. Perhaps overstating it a bit, a friend of mine in the petrochemical business once said that “if a refinery wants to make money, look after the people who pump the oil, not the oil itself”. Medical care delivery is not about calling more cashiers to the front because customers are waiting to check out.

    While there is no denying that we in the ER need to “look after the oil” (because that is what we do), the people in the carpeted section should be looking after US. We are pumpers of the oil. The only satisfaction survey question the carpet-ites should be asking is “Would you, Dr or nurse, bring your mother/father here to be treated?” And if the answer is no, then we have a carpeted section crisis… failed leadership. Because a “no” to this question means the pumpers of the oil don’t want to pump it to you.

    An internist or surgeon will be willing to listen to the grumbles and complaints in his office/ER by the patients that went to his hospital if the hospital treats the Doc with respect. And has PA’s to do his scut work. And thanks him every day for the referrals. And provides a good atmosphere for the nurses and other staff. And respects his decisions about care. And backs him in a dispute with a patient.

    Er Docs are the same. We will be very patient with the abrasive consultants, demanding patients, stress of being up all night, drug seekers and crazy people if administration treats the ER Doc with respect. And respects the ER Nurses. And RESPECTS the care decisions, realizing that people are going to be unhappy and complain. And supports the ER Doc’s in a dispute with a patient.

    But, if the Doc has to listen to administration demands to increase admissions of medicare patients because revenues are down, or demands that drug seekers be given anything desired to improve satisfaction surveys and increase census, or will sell the doc out in a patient dispute, then the Doc is not going to be happy. And, consequently many, many, many more patients will not be happy.

    So, to the administrators in the carpeted section, I say forget about internal and external customers and other concepts best left in the retail sector. The doctor and nurses look after patients, not customers. And until my pen hits the patient’s chart, no money will flow to anybody. So, who is the real “customer”?