The Future of Waiting

A few weeks back, I wrote a snarky blog post about the horrible experience most of us have while visiting the doctor: long delays, rude staff, apathetic physicians, dingy waiting rooms.  You’ve been there.

Funny enough, in response to my blog the head of patient care from a large hospital system contacted me to sit down and discuss ideas on how to improve things.  Here’s where it gets fun: this cutting-edge healthcare system is open-minded to doing a bold test.  We would take two physician clinics and totally overhaul the customer experience, staff training, incentives, and even that gloomy waiting room.  We’d then use two similar clinics as the control group to measure impact.

My bold hypothesis: A fresh, creative approach will significantly boost patient satisfaction, staff morale, AND profits.  It is an “AND”, not an “OR.”

This is where I could use your help.  As a large and creative community, I’d love to hear your ideas on how we can innovate in a tired, old-school, and risk-adverse industry.  Our only constraints: we can’t spend a ton of cash and we can’t mess with the medical care.

Here are some of the first pass ideas I’ve been noodling on:

· Re-work the broken system that allows long wait times.  Track on-time delivery and reward both docs and staff for keeping a tight schedule.  Show deep respect for patients’ time and re-tool the utilization model to have a VERY low tolerance for delays.

· Launch a mobile app that alerts patients on the day of their appointment if the schedule is off so they can manage their visit accordingly.

· Give patients a real-time report before leaving that shows exactly where they spent time at each step of their visit.  Have an automatic letter grade generated so the patients know docs are tracking this and actually care.

· Install a big scoreboard in plain view for docs, staff, and patients that tracks no more than eight office-wide metrics. All team members (including the physicians) will receive financial rewards tied to these metrics, one of which MUST be patient satisfaction.

· Totally re-do the waiting room experience including soothing music, warm lighting, and a fresh coat of paint.  Remove angry, functional signs about payment policy and replace with inspiring imagery.  A doctor’s office should feel like a spa – not a correctional facility.

· Add lots of “extra goodies.”  For example, when a patient checks in, they are offered a small pillow for their back while waiting.  They’re also offered a drink of purified water.  The staff could be trained to offer a warm, caring welcome and even inject some humor.  What about medical “fortune cookies” that are handed out upon arrival, each with a health-inspired bit of wisdom to make patients smile?

These are just a handful of low-cost ideas that could completely transform the patient experience, which in turn will drive the bottom line.

HERE’S YOUR CHALLENGE: Shoot me your ideas by leaving a comment below. I’ll read every last one of them and will pick the five best ideas and send a signed copy of my book and a personal note of thanks.

This is your chance to leave your fingerprints on a broken industry.  Let’s show those stiff white-coats what a big dose of creativity can do!

EXTRA CREDIT: Once you send me your ideas, why in the world wouldn’t you do this exact same exercise for your own business, community, and/or family?