Patient Experience: What is the Two Mercedes Equivalent?

If you can’t laugh at yourself, you may want to engage me to do it for you.  Just kidding.

People often infer things from what others say.  They read between the lines, they try to uncover innuendo.  I am doing patient access consulting for two hospitals around the notion of creating a remarkable experience for those patients who access the hospital by phone.  I had the chance to listen to several patient calls.  Do you ever wonder what your patients infer from what they hear when they call your hospital?  Is what your patients are hearing sounding something like this?

We are getting a lot of calls today.  Well, it’s not really a lot, it just seems that way because there are only a couple of us here.  Don’t hang up, but if you have some errands you need to run, now might be a good time to knock off a few of them while you are on hold.

If you are calling to schedule an appointment for 2015 please stay on the line.

If you are calling because your doctor told you she wanted to see you in two weeks, he never told us, so you may hang up now, or you can wait your turn on hold and when we are through laughing hysterically we will tell you personally to hang up.

If you are calling because your doctor referred you to get an appointment with one of our specialists, understand this.  What you have is permission to have what you think happened evaluated by our authorizations group.  You do not have an appointment.  Should authorizations authorize your referral over the next few weeks, you can try your luck and call us back.  If you are feeling that lucky you should also consider buying a lottery ticket.

If you are calling about your bill, you know as well as we do that nobody in our organization understands those things.  Besides, your insurance company is going to override anything we tell you so you may as well call them.

If you are calling because you are not feeling well perhaps you should go to the ED.  We are not allowed to give medical advice, but that is what we do when we don’t feel well.  We could try to connect you with a nurse, but that hardly ever works.

If you are calling to request a refill on a Friday afternoon, you are just being silly.  Next time call us before you run out of medication.

When patients are discharged some hospitals label them outpatients.  I label them former patients or prospective patients.  Regardless, if you really think the word ‘patient’ somehow fits a discharged patient, a former inpatient, why in the world are their needs ignored.

My calculations show that a patient has a lifetime value over 25 years of between $180,000 and $250,000—I call that the Two-Mercedes Equivalent.  Let us suppose you own one Mercedes.  In your mind owning that Mercedes entitles you to be pampered.  They should answer their phones, they should let you schedule appointments online, they should come get your car when it needs to be serviced and they should leave you a Mercedes to drive until they return yours.

They should do these things so that next time you do not buy someone else’s Mercedes.  They want all of your business.

At a majority of hospitals outpatients, former patients, are treated as yesterday’s news.  That is because hospitals are hospital-centric, they are clinic-centric.

Hospitals, like Mercedes dealers, need to be customer-centric. Is it time to reinvent patient access?

2 thoughts on “Patient Experience: What is the Two Mercedes Equivalent?

  1. Right on target! I love the two Mercedes equivalent. If you value your Mercedes, you wouldn’t leave them out in the raw elements and not do proper maintenance. Yet that is where phone contacts leave many callers. Out in the cold. We assess thousands of calls to hospitals and clinics each year including the callers’ interpretations. It never ceases to amaze me what is said during those calls. Plus, a call is often the first encounter a prospective patient has with an organization. With all the quality assurance measures healthcare has put into place, the phone encounters have been (sadly) missed, leaving the organization wide open for poor experiences.


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