Posted by Christine Schaefer
I recently went to my primary-care doctor to get a flu shot. Before venturing out for a very dissatisfying office visit, I called ahead to confirm that such shots are available on a walk-in basis. (I was put on hold twice to learn that simple fact, foreshadowing my experience at the office.) After arriving and completing the check-in process, I waited for nearly an hour without further communication from any staff member. By the way, the check-process took at least 20 minutes, even though I’m not a new patient, and there was only one other patient in the room, already checked in, when I arrived.
My wait surely would’ve lasted longer, but given my native impatience, I got up to ask the receptionist the reason for the long delay, especially considering that I didn’t need an appointment. She appeared to have forgotten why I was there—and next, I learned that the office was actually out of flu vaccine!
This blog is not meant to be a rant about the poor customer focus of one medical practice, however. Instead, I want to share the epiphany I had during my wait for the elusive flu shot: the Baldrige Award is so much more meaningful and indicative of true excellence than some other accolades for organizations. And that’s because the Criteria and award evaluation process are comprehensive and based on a systems perspective of organizational performance. You see, I noticed my doctor’s office continues to be adorned with prestigious commendations the practice has received, in particular, being named among the region’s “Best Doctors.” My awareness of that reputation was part of what drew me to the practice several years ago. And yet the recurring office-management-related problems I’ve experienced there have prompted me to look elsewhere for a better-run practice. Lest anyone think I’m being too harsh or that my expectations are unfair, consider this: all three patients who came through the waiting room for regular appointments while I was sitting in vain for a flu shot ended up complaining to the receptionist about administrative issues, too.
Given my familiarity with the rigorous assessments of an organization’s performance for the Baldrige Award, I am practically itching to introduce my doctor’s practice to the Baldrige Health Care Criteria. (Had I waited much longer, I might’ve developed stress-induced hives, providing an opportunity for me to tell a nurse that only the office’s use of the Health Care Criteria could cure me.) Seriously, I am convinced patients of that practice could benefit significantly if the organization were to adopt the multidimensional Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence rather than measure its performance more narrowly, for example, tracking only its doctors’ care ratings. After all, had I seen a Baldrige Award plaque on the wall, I trust I would have received a flu shot by now.