Monthly Archives: February 2012

Are Clinical People more Patient Care Sensitive than Non Clinical Staff ??

From The Crucibles of JPS Customer Value Academy

                             Just Plain & Simple                       

                             ….. Helping Create Customer Value

Just a hypothesis that I recently developed during my visits to one of the most premium and top end hospitals of South Delhi. A few months month back, my father had to be hospitalized and operated upon due to an emergency. The few weeks of pre and post-operative stay at this hospital brought up so many dimensions of patient care …..

Interaction with the diagnostics staff in laboratories was really nice and comforting, I must say. From guiding around the place, to being extra caring while taking samples/conducting tests ….. everything was very efficient and smooth. One was full of admiration, for the courtesy, skill and professionalism of everyone involved in the diagnostic labs.

The difference, however, was so stark and glaring when I went to pick up some test reports at the pre-scheduled time. No reports were available at the ‘delivery desk’ and they had no information about when they would come. ‘You can go and check in the X-ray lab ?’, I was told. So much for all the premium charges and service levels that are promised. On checking at the X-ray lab, I was told that they had already sent the report to the ‘central dispatch’ section. So I went to the ‘central dispatch’ section, where I was told to wait till they ‘searched’ for the report …..

On the other hand, for sure, our experience with paramedical staff and doctors was really good. Not only did they carry out their own functions nicely and courteously, they actually went beyond their normal routine role and tried to guide us even regarding administrative issues.

A total contrast, however, were the inpatient admissions, billing and discharge sections. The waiting time was not due to any length of queued up patients, but due to total apathy and lack of interest to speed up and ‘make it easy’ for patients. On the contrary, they were actually trying to ‘make it difficult’ for the patients and attendants. Needlessly slow paperwork, long delays in ‘photocopying’, absence of staff from the counter ….. all that one would expect at a third rate government hospital (and I had actually taken my father to this hospital to avoid all these issues).

On one occasion, I was shuttled ‘to and fro’ between two counters thrice. One counter was having some ‘maintenance repairs’ and the other one ‘did not have the specific department under its jurisdiction’ ????? I had to finally go to the supervisor, to seek her intervention in sorting out which counter would finally process our papers !!!!!

Then there were these super priced ‘private rooms’ with rates higher than the rooms at the adjoining five star hotel (surgery and procedure charges vary with room rental by the way). The ‘call bell’ in the room, however, did not work and the request for food, water, tea or medicines would take anything from 45 minutes to one hour (after several reminders) ….. and when I approached the attending floor staff to point out that there were too many delays in service, there was a general amusing and mocking exchange of glances amongst the staff, as if to say ‘why is this guy getting agitated ??’.

One could have actually stayed at the neighbouring five star (right next door) at lower room rates and come in daily for checkups at much lower ‘related’ procedure’ charges, with better service and comfort !!

At the time of discharge, they make it a point to tell you that the process can take anything up to three hours (?????), as if to prepare you for further systemic inefficiencies. One learnt though, that their estimate was not wrong, because the staff had to actually grapple with issues like ‘so and so is not in his seat’ and ‘the printer is not working’ and ‘the system is down’. These are not cooked up, but actual reasons given out one by one, ‘sequentially’, at the time of discharge. Hence the ‘promised’ three hours did elapse, at the end of which the nursing superintendent came to take ‘our feedback’ on the hospital’s service levels !!

But yet again, this was the difference I want to highlight. The nursing staff again was very efficient, courteous and professional. Immediately after I gave the superintendent a download of our experience and my strong comparisons on the five star parameters, I could see her having a session at the nursing station and genuine concern on the faces of all nurses.

Is it that the ‘clinical’ people have been closer to human suffering and can therefore understand and feel human pain a lot more. Being involved in the actual healing process probably makes their approach  different from the so called administrative staff ?

I am sure the administrative staff at this premium and most expensive hospital would be getting sufficient compensation and training to enable them to deliver great patient care. But somehow, the salary levels and training and development inputs seemed ineffective. Maybe, at the most, there was a superficial generation of patient care related awareness. But what the system definitely failed in creating, was an awakening, realisation, internalisation, motivation (desire) and action to be sensitive to genuine patient care.

This is where design and methodology of development programmes need to be built on strong experiential foundations, so as to be able to ignite the requisite passion and awakening. Probably what the management missed is to establish a connect and a holistic appeal to the senses through aesthetics, storytelling, empathy, feelings, pleasure, creativity and meaning …..


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