Subtle, Better Patient Experiences
by Susan Keane Baker
The Southwest Airlines passengers are lining up according to the numbers on their boarding passes. You approach the line with # 37 in hand. How do you find your place in line?
A. Ask: “Who is # 36 please?”
B. Ask: “Who is # 38 please?”
C. Frantically wave the boarding pass and hope someone notices.
If you chose Option A, you understand how to accomplish your objective in the nicest way possible. It’s a better experience for Passenger # 36 to hear: “I’m behind you” than for Passenger # 38 to hear: “I’m ahead of you.”
If you request a pound of potato salad at the deli, the server scoops your salad into a container and then must add more or take some away in order to give you the amount you requested. Savvy servers know your experience is better if you see salad being added rather than taken away. They make it a practice to under-scoop so you feel as if you are getting more, not less.
When you are giving drug samples to a patient, you may want to give a starter dose. However, if your patient sees you taking the medicines from a cabinet full of samples, his or her reaction may be to think: “Why didn’t my doctor give me all the pills I need for the week? They aren’t costing her anything!”
In a similar way, if you ask, “Are you a new patient?” an established patient may feel unrecognized and unimportant. He or she may think: “Am I a new patient??? I’ve been coming here since before you were born!”
Instead, ask for the same information in a different way: “When did you last visit us?” The established patient will tell you, and a new patient will say “This is my first visit.”