Doctor Patient Relations

The Patient Experience Of Mice and Missions

By Carole Burns, OD
Editor, Review of Optometric Business

A recent MBA symposium was devoted to delivering world class ?service quality. Our keynote speaker was from the Disney Institute, and he told wonderful stories, some funny, some heart-warming, and some even heart-breaking about how Disney “makes magical moments” at their theme parks.

Perhaps the most memorable story was one about a custodian who felt empowered enough to put down his broom and ask a family posing, “Would ?you like me to snap the photo for you, so Mom can get in the picture?”

The story highlights a guiding principle of world class service: ?each employee serves a higher purpose than his or her assigned task. Even an entry-level employee is invaluable to delivering world-class? service. Why? They put purpose over task. At Disney, the custodian’s ?task is to sweep the street, but his purpose is to create happiness.

As we listened to the Disney approach, those of us in the audience each began to think of our own patient stories and our world class service. Each and every one of us serves a? purpose in our interactions with patients. Every staff member ?interacts with patients and represents our level of service with their ?every action.

How do we keep our “higher purpose” at the top of our mind? We do this each day when we practice our Mission Statement which is displayed? prominently in our offices.

The Mission Statement is your office purpose. For Disney, it is to create happiness, for our optometric office, it is “Changing lives, through innovative vision care.” Once your office team begins to internalize their purpose, it will become easier to differentiate their purpose from their task.

At office meetings, our team members tell stories. They highlight the teenager who came out of her shell when wearing her first-time contact lenses. The story is presented about the infant seen during an InfantSee examination who needed +10.00 glasses. They discuss the elderly gentleman who was scheduled for an immediate carotid artery procedure due to finding a hollenhorst plaque on retinal evaluation.

The mission statement, or purpose, must be lived everyday. When your office associate has to make a decision (“What do I say to the patient who walked in 15 minutes late?”), they must remember their purpose. If they do, your associate will say, “Mrs. Jones, it is 10:45, please help yourself to our gourmet coffee and explore our eyewear gallery while I find out when we will be able to work you in the schedule.”

If they follow their task, they will say, “Mrs. Jones, you are 15 minutes late for your appointment, please have a seat while I find out if we can see you today.”

When your office associates understand their purpose, you will see them be friendly and pitch in as much as possible when your opticians are busy with other patients. They will not complain that it is not their job.

When your office associates understand their purpose, your finance department will work out a payment plan that works for the patient with a past due account. They will not allow the patient to feel inadequate, they will ensure the patient feels valued.

When your office associates go out of their way to accomplish your Mission Statement, it is important for them to be rewarded. It is often best to hand out gift cards to various restaurants or local establishments when an associate walks the elderly patient to their car, or delivers eyewear to the patient’s home as they are leaving for vacation in the morning. The gift cards do not need to be extravagant. However, acknowledging the act of kindness in front of peers with a thank you and a gift card will ensure other associates choose to go the extra mile.

Carole Burns, OD, is one of the professional editors for the Review of Optometric Business. She can be reached at burns.10@osu.edu.

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