Wouldn’t it be great if we could all refrain from unnecessary judgment of patients and families? It could raise our capacity for compassion and empathy. Bias creates huge barriers and can keep you from being fully present for patients in need.
The other day I was doing a Service Recovery workshop with healthcare managers where we practiced techniques for addressing problems. During one exercise I asked each table to review a comment made by one of their patients and discuss how they could apply service recovery techniques to reach resolution. In one situation, the person speaking for the group rolled her eyes and said, “We see this all the time. The drug seekers complain when they don’t get what they want. We can’t go running after them and apologizing when we know that’s all they want.” The rest of the table nodded in agreement.
First of all, nothing about the example I had given them would indicate this came from a “drug-seeker.” Furthermore, their conversation indicated a very distinct bias that complaints came from bad patients, not as a result of bad systems or processes.
As I probed further with the various groups, I discovered that the bias expressed at the one table was not isolated, but rather fairly prevalent with a number of their leaders. I felt compelled to point this out to them by asking them to finish the sentence; the customer is always… I swear, a good number of them finished the sentence with, “complaining.” As a leadership group, they were feeding a culture of bias that would keep them from engaging in a service-recovery mindset.
They were oblivious to the fact that their biases were being modeled to their staff members. The assumption was that the patient was wrong and they were right. With this outlook, it’s highly unlikely that they can create a service-centered culture. Be aware of biases and make sure they don’t get in the way of a positive culture.