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A Higher Level of Patient Experience

By Michael R. Udwin/Thursday, July 25, 2013

Michael R. Udwin imageThe recent Los Angeles Times article “Healthcare Overhaul Leads Hospitals to Focus on Patient Satisfaction” offers a positive glimpse into a future where patient quality and satisfaction need not be two distinct entities. In this paradigm, it’s no longer enough to merely provide a diagnosis, therapy, or procedure. The experience is integrally related to outcome.

Ask anyone who has walked into a Starbucks if atmosphere matters. Yes, the $5.00 cup of coffee is tasty, but the friendly cashier, the barista, the deep leather chairs, and of course the Wi-fi, are all part of the experience. Yes, the coffee itself matters. But so does everything around that cup. The same holds true for the hip procedure. Yes, you expect not to die during the procedure or have a complication. But now more than ever, you hope the staff is friendly, the admission and discharge process is smooth, and your medicine and other ancillary services are provided in a timely and efficient manner.

Recently, I visited a hospital where they had just begun handing out physician business cards with a picture of the doctor on the front. These cards were intended to improve patient familiarity with the multitude of providers involved in each admission. For some doctors, the initial reaction was one of disgust. “This is unprofessional” and “What's next, commercials and phone book advertisements?” were common refrains expressed shortly afterwards. Yet, why should doctors not be proud of the experience they provide?

As doctors embrace this new level of accountability and distinction, the processes that support that level of experience will be extremely important. As patients reflect on the care provided, it will be difficult to separate the doctor from the pain they experienced, and to that end, how quickly it was relieved by a friendly, efficient staff.  As members of a broad hospital community, doctors can play a vital role to ensure that quality is more than just an outcome, but instead a higher level of experience.

Michael R. Udwin, MD, FACOG
National Medical Director
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