“Excellence Wins” in Healthcare – A Leader’s “Gut” is Not Enough

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We are reviewing the book titled, “Excellence Wins”, by Horst Schulze, founding president and COO of Ritz-Carlton.

While having a copy of the book is certainly not needed to enjoy the next several BLOG posts, if you’d like to grab a copy to follow along, feel free to pick it up at Amazon here, or of course at your favorite book store.

This week we continue with part three of “Excellence Wins”, BUILDING TRUE RELATIONSHIPS, as we review chapter thirteen:

“Heads of organizations are sometimes impatient about taking formal performance measurements, especially if the research is expensive.” (1)

If you are reading this BLOG, there is a good chance that your company already sees the value of collecting on-going patient feedback. To those readers, congratulations — you are positioned to provide the very best service and care possible because of that investment.

If your company has not committed to collecting patient feedback, OR is still collecting patient feedback using antiquated methods, you probably hear some of the same excuses that we used to hear. There are all kinds of roadblocks that get in the way of physician practices and other healthcare organizations performing consumer research. Here’s a few.

  • We already have a process in place (usually paper-based and not very actionable or timely).
  • The expense is too great, we simply don’t have it in the budget
  • We already know what our patients think about our practice
  • Research firms are just out to take our money
  • We are too busy to review the data, so why collect it
  • We already know what the data is going to tell us, we’re in-touch with our patients

Mr. Schulze received similar push-back when he insisted that every Ritz-Carlton hotel perform regular, on-going customer surveys. Mr. Schulze’s perspective,
“Measurement is how we determine the gap between where we think we are and where we actually are.” (2)

A Leader’s Intuition Is Not Enough

Entrepreneurs are famous for working by their feelings” (3)

Many small, independent physician practices were founded by physicians that have an entrepreneur’s slant toward business. Because I seem to have some entrepreneur blood running through my veins, I can relate.

So, when I have a “feeling” that a new product might sell well, or a new service line would be quickly accepted by our target market (physician practices and other healthcare organizations), I have learned to first seek counsel of those around me, and then do the research needed to confirm those “feelings”.

For those of you that manage a physician practice, it’s very similar. For example, in the very first BLOG post of this series, I recalled a comment made by a friend of mine, an orthopaedic surgeon.

“I have great relationships with all my patients and I know what my patients think about my practice. If any of my patients were unhappy, they would tell me.”

My orthopaedic surgeon friend had helped start this small orthopaedic group, which had grown to 10 physicians, several PAs, and a radiology department. Having a good handle on what patients REALLY thought about the practice, was at best, based on my friend’s feelings.

Financial Stats Are Not Enough

“The corporate after-tax earnings figures are certainly important and deserving of every leader’s close attention…

…by the time the numbers are crunched and published, they’re already at least six weeks out of date. They don’t help you steer a future course. In this, they are seriously incomplete. (4)

To effectively manage any organization requires staying focused on several different types of performance indicators, concurrently. We often refer to the tool that enables us to stay strategically focused as the Balanced Score Card, or Balanced Dashboard.

“Luck” and “Hope” Will Never Be Enough

“Getting ‘lucky’ is not a strategy. Neither is just ‘hoping for the best’. Anything that is important in an operation has to be measured.” (5)

In today’s tech-rich world, the flow of data and information is moving at a breakneck speed. The true art of managing through the ocean of data is to focus just on the things that matter the most, and have that information right at your fingertips.

When we developed M3-Patient Experience in 1995 we knew then if we could measure the patient’s experience, compile and disseminate that information very soon after the patient’s office visit, and enable the office manager and their team to act on that information, we would be light-years ahead of our competitors. In 1995 we used laptop computers placed within the physician’s office. Patients simply provided feedback during the checkout process using a detachable touch screen. Today, as patients provide feedback in real-time via the internet, practice managers and other leadership perform Service Recovery and congratulate support staff for stellar performance within hours of the patient exiting the practice’s office building.

As organizations grow, similar to how Ritz-Carlton grew in the ’90s, having technology that allows data to flow from one end of the country to the other, in real-time, allows even the largest of organizations to stay on-top-of the critical aspects of the operation better than ever.

What to Measure

To help navigate through the sea of information coming into companies today, including physician practices and other healthcare organizations, consider Mr. Schulze’s recommendation to measure and focus on the “Big Three”. (6)

  1. Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty
  2. Employee Satisfaction
  3. Leading Indicators

Most of us have a pretty good handle on items #1 and #2. Item #3, Leading Indicators can be a little fuzzy until they are given some further thought. For example, Mr. Schulze talks about using advanced bookings in the hotel industry as a leading indicator. The number of advanced bookings one year out, for example, can be a leading indicator especially when compared to the same indicator from years past.

For physician practices and other healthcare organizations, monitoring the number of appointments on the books a year out may not be a useful leading indicator, however, the number of appointments six months out may indeed be a good leading indicator, especially when compared to previous 6-month-out data, year in and year out.

Shooting for the Stars

“Organizations that measure — and keep on measuring — find out their short comings. They discover strategies and tactics that need to be changed.” (7)

When I entered healthcare in 1994 it was rare for physician practices to conduct patient satisfaction surveys. Those that did, did so infrequently — maybe annually or perhaps every two years. Today it’s not uncommon to see patient experience survey systems being deployed into healthcare organizations, including physician practices. With the advent of the internet, being locked into only two survey modes, paper or telephone, the high cost associated with those two modes can be avoided altogether by utilizing web-based systems.

After presenting M3-Patient Experience to an independent physician group here in the Nashville area, the president of the group remarked, “So, after seeing the value of the M3 system and how powerful it is, how much does it cost?” When we told the president of the group, and the other physicians in the room the monthly subscription cost, the president said, “that is less than the cost of buying lunch — yes, we would like to subscribe — this is a no brainer!”.

“The commitment to measuring and adjusting is not a luxury. It is essential to responsible leadership.” — Horst Schulze (8)

Next week: Chapter 14: LOVE AND MONEY

Please let us know if you have comments or questions, and subscribe to our Email Updates , so that you can be assured to receive Thinking Thursdays TIPs.
Thank you!

Jerry L. Stone
MedicalGPS, LLC.

Names: SCHULZE, HORST, 1939 author. | MERRILL, DEAN
Title: Excellence Wins: a no-nonsense guide to becoming the best in the world of compromise / Horst Schulze, with Dean Merrill
Description: Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan, [2019]


(1) Page 188
(2) Page 188
(3) Page 189
(4) Pages 189, 190
(5) Pages 190, 191
(6) Page 193
(7) Page 202
(8) Page 202

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