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Providing World Class Care

    • 148 posts
    April 8, 2015 5:38 PM EDT

    Regarding my presentation on "Bridging the Great Divide," I thought I'd provide some background and solicit your thoughts and experiences on this topic.

    I realize that the title is not revealing of the subject matter, but let me just say it has to do with perception versus reality. Specifically, the divide between the quality of service (and care) we think that we provide to our clients (and patients) versus their perception (of our quality of service to them and their pet). The client's perception of you (regardless of your role or position), your practice, the service, and outcome for the pet's visit all impact the future of your relationship with that client (and their friends, family, and others they encounter on the street). Furthermore, if we can trump or exceed their expectations, we may stand the chance of truly being thought of as a provider of world class care. Who wouldn't want that designation? Imagine being the "Ritz Carlton" of caregivers.

    The idea for this topic came from a personal experience that I had, during a period of my career, in which I served as Medical Director of a 24-hour emergency and specialty referral practice. At that time, the practice had over 90 employees. I can assure you, that as most practice owners, managers, supervisors and administrators already know, it was a constant "work in progress" to try and ensure that all members of the team "got it right" and "walked (or talked) the talk." It can be challenging to fulfill on all aspects of patient care and client service (all of the time). This is especially true if all members of the veterinary team aren't always on the same page and share in the vision of the practice. Of course, for people to stand a chance of being on the same page, there must be written information to guide their activities.

    A mission statement helps in defining who you are, what you're about, and what you intend to achieve. Some organizations also create a vision statement to better define their intentions or goals. The mission statement should serve as a touchstone for all members of the practice. Written policies, protocols and checklists are a must. They provide specific information that should help everyone to do their job and, in theory, contribute towards fulfilling the mission. Staff meetings and regular, timely and specific communication is also critical to shaping all members of the team and keeping them aligned.

    During my tenure as Medical Director we had all of these things in place. Furthermore, I was founding Medical Director of the hospital and had the opportunity to engage an entire new team of employees in establishing the mission statement for the practice. It was an awesome experience to participate in that exercise, and to come to know what mattered most and to whom. We met, as a team, at least 3 times to establish and agree on our final mission statement. I think most everyone felt really good about it and also felt a strong sense of ownership. When the inscribed plaque was placed above the front desk, I think most of the team felt a great sense of pride. I know that I did. Every morning when I'd walk into the building, it was the first thing I saw (as did every employee and every client).

    The management team and all of the supervisors worked really hard to create all sorts of checklists for various areas of the hospital: Cleaning protocols, restocking protocols, drug count protocols, labwork submission protocols, patient admit and discharge protocols, etc., etc., etc. In spite of all of the checklists and protocols it never ceased to amaze me how challenging it was to keep people to task. It sometimes seemed that in spite of our touchstone - the mission statement - there seemed to be a disconnect or a lack of awareness that if one adhered to or fulfilled on checklists and protocols, that they were living up to and contributing towards the mission statement. Of course, this was not true of all members of the team, and over time, those who "didn't get it," eventually left or were let go.

    In truth, I'm not sure I thought about all of that - quite like that - until I had my experience. Contrary to what you might expect, my experience did not take place at work. Rather, it was in a doctor's office. One of my own doctors. And that experience was repeated again, and again, on subsequent visits. It was so impressive, I dedicated an entire staff meeting to talk about it with our hospital team. My eyes had been opened and I knew I had to share it with them. My hope was that we could replicate what I had experienced and implement it in our practice. I recall how everyone, who was there for that meeting, seemed to emotionally connect with every aspect of what I detailed. There was no confusion or lack of clarity, regardless of their role on the team, about what I was trying to convey and how it translated to each of them personally, and for us as a collective. It had nothing to do with protocols or checklists. It did have everything to do with impressing, on each person, of the vital role they play in a process, and how each individual stands to influence an amazing experience and lasting impression.

    I had a world class experience in a medical setting. I had not experienced it prior to that time, and I have not experienced it elsewhere. I don't even think I knew the difference until that experience. I spend a lot of time in the dog park and hear lots of people (who don't know of my profession) talk about "the vet," and it's often the vet bills, and how much it costs, as the first thing that is expressed (usually with disdain - regardless of what was wrong or how much work went into caring for the pet). I rarely, if ever, hear anyone rave about their vet or experience at the vet. In "Bridging the Great Divide," I paint a picture of my rave medical experience. My goal is to provide a different perspective and some food for thought that, I hope, will connect with you emotionally and inspire you to rethink how you shape the client experience in your practice.