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They are common customer service slogans – “service with a smile” and “first impressions make lasting impressions.”

Optimizing the patient experience

02/Dec/2011

MERLINO

They are common customer service slogans – “service with a smile” and “first impressions make lasting impressions.” But in order to provide superb, patient-centered care, these statements must be more than catchphrases. The sentiment behind these slogans must be embedded in institutional culture.  

Leaders from Cleveland Clinic and the University of Michigan Medical Center – both known for excellent patient satisfaction – visited the MGH Nov. 17 to share best practices at a service symposium sponsored by the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization (MGPO) Practice Improvement Division’s Service Improvement  Department. The guest speakers spoke with practice leaders during an afternoon session, and later delivered presentations at a evening interdisciplinary leadership forum.  

“We have a zero tolerance program. The way we treat each other must be appropriate and the way we treat our patients must be excellent,” said James Merlino, MD, FACS, FASCRS, chief experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic, who gave an overview of the clinic’s “patients first” service excellence program. “Everyone is clear as to what we are here to deliver. It’s all about having a purpose – it’s all for the patients. We set clear expectations at the top and then walk the talk.”

Charles Ellis, MD, director of service excellence and a professor of Dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical Center, addressed why patient satisfaction is key to improving the patient experience. “Patients cannot measure physician skill and knowledge. Patients infer quality from what they observe – such as a physician’s manners, politeness, attitude, body language and timeliness. Patient satisfaction is a measure of service quality; for patients it’s a proxy for medical quality.”

“These interactive sessions offer MGH leaders tools and techniques for providing the optimal patient experience,” said Alexa Kimball, MD, MPH, senior vice president of the MGPO and vice chair of the Department of Dermatology, who facilitated the evening session. Kimball said the best practices shared during the symposium will be reviewed by leadership, prioritized and implemented at the MGH. Additional service symposia are planned for 2012.  n



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