A New Challenge for Studer Group and all the Hospital Smile Consultants
Finally, the Studer Group and all the high priced consultants that are trying to fool patients and their families into believing that healthcare institutions are “patient-centered” when they may not be have a real mission to fullfill. Get thee to France where, it now turns out, the French tourism board is trying to convince Parisians and other assorted Frenchmen and women to be kind to tourists. In an article in today’s New York Times entitled “A Quest to Make Gruff Service in France More Gracious,” Liz Alderman catalogues the legendary rudeness of the French and how it’s turning off tourists. Apparently efforts to make France more tourist friendly have failed since they were launched after World War Two.
So that’s where healthcare consultants come in. Their specialty is trying to manipulate people into thinking institutions that don’t seem to care much for them or about them (except for the money they bring in that is) actually do by encouraging staff to smile constantly and ask their customers (i.e. patients)how they are doing on an hourly basis. Health care consultants impose scripts on nurses docs and other staff, a la “can I do anything for you, I have time?”
There would be nothing wrong with this if people actually had the time to deal with even basic patient needs. Problem is, today’s productivity standards make it impossible for them to take that time. You know all about it, the ten minute visit in which the physician has to take a history, make a diagnosis, create treatment plan, prescribe and explain what’s going on to the, not to mention computer charting — yes, just in a few minutes. Or the six to 10 patient loads nurses shoulder in most states. Consultants have been peddling these scripts and smiling protocols for years now. With new reimbursement models that base some of their payment on patient satisfaction, hospitals and other health facilities are upping the smiling ante in order to rig patient satisfaction scores. Sadly, patient safety– the real key to patient satisfaction as well a reducing healthcare costs — is at risk of being overshadowed by efforts to implement superficial measures developed by the hospitality industry like hotels and restaurants.
So my solution is to send all the high priced healthcare consultants over to France where the real hospitality challenge seems to lie. Imagine the Studer Group coaching Parisian waiters in all the ubiquitous cafes that line French boulevards. These are the ones who, when a tourist arrives and asks if he can sit down, retort haughtily, as Times reporter Lisa Alderman writes, “Look around! You see empty tables, don’t you?”
These waiters are the ones that really need help. First they need to be taught how to smile (something they learned not to do in wait school). This may take considerable time, but that’s cool for people who bill from $250 to $750 an hour. As consultants now do in America hospitals, mirrors need to be strategically placed behind the bar or in the kitchen so that waiters can practice smiling into them before they race out to take an order or deliver a demi or cafe creme. As tourists are passing cafes, waiters can intercept them and ask if they have any questions about their beautiful city. Or they can learn how to do rounds every fifteen minutes or so, checking on the classic tourist vital signs. If a customer has gone to the bathroom or walked outside for a smoke, the newly transformed Garcon can offer a dazzling smile accompanied by a heartfelt “welcome back,” as the tourist sits down again. And of course, any time a customer looks even slightly discontented or in need of help, the waiter must obsequiously dash over, putting one hand reassuringly on their shoulder and another on their wrist to check their pulse.
After they have conquered the French cafe, they can move on to the Parisian boutique where staff routinely ignore their customers — particularly the American tourist — and act as if assisting someone who wants to buy a stunningly expensive silk foulard or embossed handbag was totally beneath them. Again, practice mirrors cunningly concealed behind the cash register or in the back storeroom and smile school are de rigeur.
The French targets are endless — hoteliers, department store salespeople, taxi drivers, ticket takers, innkeepers. The French economy is in desperate straits and the Studers and their ilk could actually do some real good. And here in the US, our hospitals would have a lot of more money to focus on what really matters — patient and worker safety, something that fake smiles will never produce.