In my last post
, I discussed my experience at the lab and insurance desk at a hospital. Now I'd like to share the remainder of the story and my analysis on the lessons learned from the hospital stay.
A nurse on my first evening in the hospital asked me to sign some papers. As I read the papers, there was a note that said I should not sign if the paperwork was not explained to my satisfaction. I looked at the nurse and said, "No one has explained anything to me. How can I sign?" The nurse looked at me and asked me to hold on for a moment. After some time, a doctor came, explained the process and situations that could arise during the operation. I asked some more questions that he answered, and I signed the papers.
Thursday morning, the operation was completed successfully, with follow-up visits by the doctor and nurse. On Friday, the process continued. A group of three senior staffers came in the room, introducing themselves as administrators, and asked if the air conditioning, food and other services were okay. In the evening, the doctor visited again and told me all was well and he would discharge me the following day. He said he would start the process in the morning and requested my patience as the billing and insurance-approval process might take many hours, even perhaps the whole day.
On Saturday morning, the administration staff visited again and asked if all was well. At noon, the staff took my signature on the bill and asked me to wait for approval. I sat around and inquired about the approval few times, but no luck. I finally got approval by 7 p.m. -- but by that point I had had dinner at the hospital and afterward moved to my house.
My experience at the lab and at the hospital were quite opposite. At the lab, the work at hand was minor, but it escalated. However, at the hospital the work at hand was greater and there were more opportunities for issues to arise, yet all went well. I think it was the hospital's well-defined process and disciplined execution that allowed for a smooth experience.
Takeaway 1: Words Have No Meaning, Only Action Works
At the lab, the manager was trying to defuse a situation by promising and explaining, but actions were missing, and therefore the matter became heated. At the hospital, when I was asked to sign papers without explanation, I raised the concern -- and the nurse and doctor both handled it well by doing what was expected without uttering a single word to the contrary.
Takeaway 2: Keep the Ego Under Control
The manager at the lab appeared to possess a big ego. First, he did not accept the problem; moreover, he defended his and his team's actions. Second, as he was also a doctor, he could have collected the blood himself but chose not to, perhaps because it wasn't in his job description. He missed the opportunity to win over customers and set an example for his staff.
Takeaway 3: Set Expectations
If the hospital staff had not set expectations that it would take two hours for approval on the estimated cost and a whole day for approval on the final bill, I would have waited impatiently and probably fought with the staff over the delays. But setting expectations in advance helped them control customer reactions and achieve satisfaction.
Takeaway 4: Have a Process, Maintain Discipline and Re-evaluate
The most interesting thing I found is that the administration staff visited my room twice and personally asked if all was going well. They were monitoring that discipline was being maintained and if anything in the process needed to be fixed. I think this was critical in ensuring foolproof processes and disciplined staff.