First Impressions

Steven R. Peskin, MD, MBA, FACP

Earlier today, I was speaking with a physician colleague about his commitment to continue to improve person-centered care in his primary care practice and to enhance patient experience. We talked about the potential value of greeters in the practice, of a patient council to offer feedback and recommendations, and, with training, increasing the scope of service of medical assistants to allow nurses, advanced practice nurses, and physicians to spend more time with more complex care.

When reflecting on his comments about gracious greeters and coaching non-clinical and clinical staff on communication, I was reminded of a video from many years ago of the former CEO of Ritz Carlton that started with his passion and conviction about the importance of "a warm and sincere greeting." When Apple was entering the retail arena, Steve Jobs benchmarked Ritz Carlton for Apple retail stores to emulate for the ultimate in customer service.

Though the  "Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems" (CAHC) with all of iterations of home health, hosptials, health plans, ambulatory care, and, most recently medical homes, is frequently cited by health plan and health system leaders, adminstrators and clinicians, we are inconsistent at best in our abilities to deliver on good service. We point to the complexity (sometimes self-induced) of health care and the pain, discomfort, anxiety and/or fear that people may be facing in their interactions with health care workers (true, but not always), and, the time pressures that we face (nearly universal in today's hurried culture).

We should not hide behind excuses. A warm and sincere greeting is only a beginning, but it is certainly a great way to begin!

Steven R. Peskin, MD, MBA, FACP, is associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

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