A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from an administrative assistant in one of our imaging offices. She asked about the courtesy van that the hospital provides to those who are in need of transportation but are unable to afford cab or bus fare. A patient who had been in the day before said she had no way to get home but had used that service previously and found it very helpful. This administrative assistant didn’t have the voucher she needed and starting hunting one down.
The hospital had recently changed its policy about which departments were authorized to give these vouchers out to patients. Apparently, people were taking advantage of them. Funny, I thought the whole idea of the program was for people to take advantage of it…
She called another department – one that was authorized – and asked if she could have a voucher for patient who was here and needed to get home. The director responded with, “I don’t know, will I get in trouble if I give this to you?”
She had been in a meeting where the senior leadership team was ranting about how much money it costs us every time someone uses this service. She got the message loud and clear that anyone caught giving the service to someone who didn’t really need it would be in a whole lot of trouble. It was clear that managing the budget was more important than meeting a patient’s needs.
I had to ask myself, what kind of a hospital is this? What do we truly value? The buck kept being passed until someone decided that helping this patient get home was more important than potentially getting yelled at by an executive.
Thankfully, this all happened behind the scenes; the patient had no idea there was such a scramble to find a simple voucher, but as I was listening to this story it became crystal clear to me that we have sent our employees the wrong message. All this talk about patient experience and putting the patient first… it’s just talk.
Until employees – all employees – are empowered to take action that helps patients, you do not have a patient-centered organization.
Your patient experience efforts will go nowhere. And your patients will go elsewhere.