Some of my best content over the years has come from the many medical appointments I’ve made with family members. Yesterday’s trip with my 85-year-old mother to the UW Health West Clinic for an initial GI evaluation was no exception.
If you read my blog regularly, you know that I can be critical of organizations for complex processes and insensitive staff, but yesterday was a totally different experience, which tells me this particular organization is making great progress.
I’m particularly sensitive about how healthcare providers treat older individuals. I have seen so many doctors and nurses behave dismissively toward elderly consumers by talking over them or acting impatient. My mother is educated, sharp, and an informed, discerning healthcare consumer. I am often saddened by providers who, perhaps unknowingly, discount her by directing questions to me or talking over her.
Here’s what I noticed specifically:
Virginia, the PA, was attentive, focused, inquisitive, and respectful throughout the visit. She had made a point to review my mother’s history before entering the room. She made it clear that she had done her homework and was familiar with the numerous tests that had already been done and the notes from my mother’s PCP. At the end of the appointment, she summarized what had been discussed, reviewed next steps, and then handed my mother a printout of the appointment summary. There were a few points in the discussion where my trained ear discerned scripting, but her delivery was authentic and personalized. The important thing was how my mother felt at the close of the appointment.
She said, “She was good. She knew what I covered with my regular doctor, which is good. Lots of doctors have no clue what happens there and make you start all over. And I liked how she summarized and gave me a printout. Not only is she nice, but they are organized and efficient.”
In the lab, Kathy the phlebotomist was friendly and exuded competence. She did a beautiful job of introducing herself, recapping how the lab work fit into the overall plan, explained what she was doing, and told my mother when she could expect the results. The entire time she was engaging and compassionate.
Both Virginia and Kathy were poster children for my G.R.E.A.T. Model of Communication, which I cover in Customer Service in Healthcare as well as in Raising the Bar on Service Excellence. Just a few years ago, I would not have been able to say that about our experience at UW West. I’m thrilled when I can see a culture change that permeates the operations and actions of the front line. Whatever they’re doing, it’s working.
But what I think is secondary to my mother’s vote of confidence. Using adjectives like nice, organized, and efficient is a big thumb’s up. Hats off UW West! Mom and I were both impressed.