How Business Pays for its View of Human Nature

As I just got done finished reading the column in Businessweek with the title of this post, I received the following link from Hilary Worthen, MD, about the value of good customer service:

Writing – Cooking – Life » Blog Archive » I Heart Zappos

These ideas must be on the minds of a lot of people these days, as Jack and Suzy Welch also wrote about it in their column “The Importance of Being Sticky.”

The best companies understand that a relationship of trust and engagement pays off handsomely, and this includes empowering staff closest to customers with abilities to correct errors and manage inconveniences.

Think about the analogies we use in health care without even thinking about it….

I recently had the experience of an editor doing a really great job improving an article I am writing for a peer-reviewed publication. One of the suggested edits, though, started with the sentence, “Armed with information, the doctor can….” They gladly accepted my re-edit and commentary that we are not war with our patients, we are at peace with them.

What is our view of human nature within the health care system and should we change it?


Okay, so, what IS your (plural) view of human nature, out there in healthcare?

There was an unexpected and pretty vociferous discussion in the comments on an e-patient post about the NY Times special section this week. Certainly the anecdotes shared by Christine Gray don't reflect the kind of respect you (Ted) talk about, but I don't know if that's on point for this post.

Hi Dave,

That's a great discussion over there, I especially like how you encapsulated your experiences in your comment. I think there's a lot of wisdom in just a few paragraphs. Come to think of it, I'm adding those two paragraphs to my link cloud.

I think it's on point, and I'm glad you asked. In medicine, there seems to be a null hypothesis of mistrust. Compare health care to other industries – when a hospital or medical office runs late, sometimes costing the patient several hours of inconvenience, are clinicians alllowed to waive their co-pay or visit fee? You could say if that were the case then no one would get reimbursed, ever, but what would really be the impact if 1,000 co-pays were waived in a year? On the hospital's interest in eliminating inconvenience? On the patient's interest in staying engaged and feeling respected? That's one example I think of relative to the Disney's of the world.

One more: The idea of being "allowed" to do things. If you walk through a hospital, pay attention to cues about the openness of the institution. The folks at Medical College of Georgia taught me this – they removed all of the signage and cues that patients and families needed to ask for permission for things, everything from visiting hours (eliminated) to signage that said, "wait here to see your family member." Ever since then, whenever I am in a hospital, i ask, "Do you have visiting hours?" as a marker for patient and family centeredness.

Can you and the readers think of others?


Ted Eytan, MD