Arrogant, Abusive and Disruptive – and a Doctor. So goes the title in a recent article posted in the New York Times last week. I am a physician coach and I am dishearten. I have just spent the last hour listening to a physician who has been tagged with two of the three descriptors above. A principled man in an honorable calling, who cares deeply about his patients.
I firmly believe it is highly prudent for a hospital administrator to give patient complaints high priority. They warrant an immediate response with the intent towards a deeper understanding. Allowing complaints to pile up in a folder, and avoiding a crucial conversation is a not the way to go. It can turn into a no-win situation fast.
Here is what I suggest hospital administrators do when they hear of a first complaint about a physician, - have a "cup of coffee" listening conversation. To prepare for this conversation think about these key things.
Physicians are the most valuable resource in health care institutions. The US is experiencing a physician shortage, and predictions are that it will only grow.
Second, see the physician as a customer to be satisfied as well. For in-depth homework read Press-Ganey’s 2007 report on Physician Satisfaction
Third, listen deeply. Listening is the great relationship builder. For some it is a natural, for some it is a skill that can be cultivated. Go into your first conversation with the idea you will speak a maximum of 20% of the time, and will listen intently 80%. Your ROI on an hour of good listening is extremely high not only in terms of dollars, but in human suffering.
Fourth, take a "we are all in this for the patient" approach. There are no sides, only priorities, and patients are the first priority.
Fifth, realize that very few physicians are truly disruptive, they are disrupted. It is more complex than just one person acting out; this issue warrants thinking systematically.
Healthcare is ripe for change. I believe it will be those in healthcare organizations who will effect the most change.