Patients are Customers, Too

Oftentimes, medical facilities seem to forget that they, like all other businesses, are in the people business.  Maybe it’s because the majority of the payment comes via insurance companies.  Maybe it’s because the healthcare providers see their focus as the sickness, more than the patient.  But whatever the reason, the customer experience is frequently overlooked.

Last week, my father, almost 87 years old, was in the hospital in Memphis, TN.  He had surgery for some recent health issues, but brought some of his existing health issues with him, namely, diabetes.  During his post-surgery stay, the meals that were brought to him routinely included foods that had significant amounts of sugar.  Thankfully, my dad had the awareness and good sense to simply leave those foods alone.  But he was not too pleased that the hospital could not understand something that even airlines get, which is that diabetics require a special diet.

The delivery of his food also left much to be desired.  A well-dressed chap (black pants and vest, white shirt, black bow tie) came in each day, reading what "the chef" had prepared for upcoming meals.  Unfortunately, it was all scripted, and this fellow was not able to answer any questions that deviated from what was printed on his cheat sheet.  He also delivered the meals to the room, and placed it on the movable tray.  Unfortunately, wherever the movable tray was located at the time of his arrival, that is where the food was placed, irregardless of whether it was within reaching distance of my father.  Since Dad was bedridden, it was of no help to him to have the food on the other side of his room.  If my sister or I was visiting, we could move the tray into place.  If we were not, Dad would have to call a nurse for help. 

Another time, they brought Dad a snack of crackers and a small container of peanut butter.  Unfortunately, they did not bring him a utensil to put the peanut butter on the crackers.  Another time, they brought him grits with no spoon!  Now, oversights do happen, and if this occurs when you go out to a restaurant, you simply ask the waiter to bring you what you need.  But in a hospital…

a) you’re not feeling well
b) you’re not terribly mobile
c) you’re being cared for by nurses, who have other medical matters to tend to

It’s not asking too much that your meals be coordinated with you overall health concerns (not just the matters you are being treated for), and that they are served to you where you can reach them, and you are given the proper utensils to eat with.  The philosophy of seeing the world through your customer’s eyes has never been more applicable than when dealing with those who can not adequately care for themselves. 

  — Chuck Dennis

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: