I remember the first time I entered their home I was taken aback by the clutter. Wet leaves and small branches were strewn across the floors and furniture. Black, Hefty trash bags stood against the walls filled with last year’s leaves. Dozens of bright orange buckets from Home Depot sat beneath the windows. The house always felt cold, very cold. After a while I learned to act normally around the clutter.
There came a time however when I simply had to ask, “Why all the buckets? What’s the deal with the leaves?”
“We try hard to keep the place neat,” she replied.
“Where does it all come from?” I asked.
“The open windows, the stuff blows right in.”
I looked at her somewhat askance. “I’m not sure I follow,” I replied as I began to feel uneasy.
“It’s not like we like living this way; the water, the cold, the mess. It costs a fortune to heat this place. And, the constant bother of emptying the buckets, and the sweeping of the leaves.”
Trying to assume the role of thought leader I asked, “Why don’t you shut your windows? It seems like that would solve a lot of your problems.”
She looked at me like I had just tossed her cat in a blender.
When you see something abnormal often enough it becomes normal. Sort of like in the movie The Stepford Wives. Sort of like Patient Experience Management (PEM). The normal has been subsumed by the abnormal, and in doing so is slowing devouring the resources of the hospital.
Are you kidding me? I wish. It’s much easier to see this as a consultant than it is if you are drinking the Kool Aid daily. When I talk to people about a statistic that indicates that 500 people called yesterday about their bill, and everyone looks calm and collected, it makes me feel like I must be the only one in the room who doesn’t get it—again with The Stepford Wives.
If I ask about the high call volume they always have an answer, the same answer. “Billing calls are usually around 500 a day.” They say that with a straight face as though they are waiting to see if I will drink the Kool Aid. It’s gotten to the point where no matter how bad things get, as long as they are consistently bad, they are not bad at all.
This is the mindset that enables the patient experience executive (I know you probably don’t have one—I am being facetious) to be fooled by his or her own metrics. When is someone going to understand that repeatedly having thousands of people calling to tell your organization you have a problem, means you have a problem?
It would probably take less than a week to pop something on your web site, and post a YouTube video explaining how to read the bill. Next week, do the same thing and help patients understand how to file claims and disputes—granted, you may need more than a week for this one.
And when the front line employees understand the problem and know an answer, but management doesn’t see it as a problem, employee frustration mounts, and customers don’t get the responses that they are looking for or deserve, making the problem worse. In a better marketplace customers and employees would go elsewhere, except that we all know after years of experience that we know how to deal with the frustration here and it will be worse at the next place. Oh, is my frustration showing? Sorry!!