The fourth installment of my reflective blogs comes from an upcoming book about revolutionary changes in patient experience at UCLA Health Systems:
Dr. Michael W. Yeh, Assistant Professor of Surgery and Medicine and Program Director of Endocrine Surgery at UCLA, saddressed challenges of the timely delivery of care when taking over leadership of his program. “One of the things that always bothered me about healthcare when I was a patient was that it seemed so difficult to access. The limiting factor in medicine isn’t technology. It’s healthcare professionals not helping patients navigate in a foreign environment.” Dr. Yeh even suggests that medical settings can become hostile for patients who are often vulnerable and emotionally overwhelmed. In light of this vulnerability, Dr. Yeh notes that some healthcare providers have moved in the direction of amenitized care, where concierge services are offered to patients. Unfortunately, not all of the providers who make care extremely comfortable are also delivering the highest level of clinical outcomes. Dr. Yeh adds, “It occurred to me that if you have the choice between having all the polish and not necessarily the intellectual muscle or going to another institution, say UCLA, that has all the intellectual muscle but could use a little more of the polish, the organization with substance would be in an enviable position.” As a result of this observation, Dr. Yeh decided to add polish to patient access in the Endocrine Surgery program. “When I started here, I structured things so that we would be accessible—there would be no phone trees; there would be human beings. I answered my own phone for the first year; you always got a person when you called.”
Dr. Yeh distinguishes between a surgeon and a technician by the degree to which the surgeon advocates on behalf of the patient. According to Dr. Yeh, “To advocate for patients you have to take the time to know them and put systems in place to help them receive care. Inevitably there will be tests that have to be done, further tests, and coordination. If you have a patient that comes from Abu Dhabi, that patient will likely be provided some help, but if you have an elderly woman from central California, how are we going to help her get around?” To make the process less daunting to patients, Dr. Yeh created a “help desk” resource. A phone line was created to help patients with any problem they encountered. Dr. Yeh notes, “If you are a patient of ours, we will coordinate all your appointments on the same day so you won’t have to travel as often. If you get lost, you can call our number and we’ll guide you around this huge campus. What I realized early on was there were a lot of system problems that were too big for me to tackle as a junior professor. My goal, however, was to create a little bubble around my micro-culture so that things could work within our program the way I thought they ought to work.”
Have you created a bubble around your customer, so they will encounter service the way it “ought” to be?