What Patients Want

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO May 30, 2014

For the record, I really don’t like hot dogs. They are not very healthy, they are pretty messy, and I often end up with mustard on my shirt. However, my opinion of hot dogs changes completely when I go to a baseball game. I love ball park franks. So, what is the difference? My judgment is affected by the atmosphere of the game!

I think it is safe to say that we all experience at least a little anxiety when we visit the doctor. I am pretty sure that a trip to the doctor is not in our top 10 favorite things to do. And even more, I believe that a patient’s assessment of care is a function of the atmosphere within which it is received.

A recent advertising campaign was run by a local hospital group entitled, “What I Want.” The ad said nothing about quality of care per se. Instead, it was about various qualities which patients wanted to see in their doctor. One patient said, “I want the doctor to be kind.” Another said, “I want him to make me feel safe.” “I don’t want him to have to look at the chart before saying…Hi,…David.” Other examples followed, each with a patient expressing their wishes for characteristics they wanted to see in their doctor…how they wanted their doctor to make them feel.

So, I got to thinking. What do my patients anticipate when they come to see me? Am I prepared to deliver on their expectations? I am certainly focused on delivering quality care. But am I also focused on how patients feel in the process?

We doctors often speak about quality of care, and rightly so. All patients expect professional expertise from their doctor. But let’s not underestimate the importance of behaviors which set the stage.

Here is a partial list of attributes that are important in creating the best atmosphere:

  • humility

  • attentiveness

  • sensitivity

  • focus

  • eye contact

  • fresh breath

  • energy

  • a sense of humor

Did your shake their hand, did you listen, did you tell them thank you?
All of this, leading to excellence in patient care.

As I See It, hot dogs should taste the same no matter where we eat them, and yet, we judge them differently when we are at the ball park. Patients come to our practices with a variety of expectations. In the end, they will judge their experience by the quality of care AND the atmosphere within which it was delivered.

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