Health care and customer service

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Recently a dear friend of mine, who has cancer and Lymphedema issues asked me to speak with another health care provider who works for a large hospital system in California, regarding her care plan. For approximately 30 minutes I navigated message machines, two people who tried to be helpful and then finally I found myself having to leave a long message on an answering machine at a Lymphedema center. All that and I never even spoke to anyone personally in that center. Now a whole week later no one has even called me back.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves, in some type of self- service manner, before reaching out for a live representative. That is amazing statistic and it is much higher than I thought it would be. So I started wondering about our health care world and will this idea of non-contact, work in the health care arena? In my profession as a physical therapy, we are definitely in a different mode. We are high contact and high touch. We are dealing with physical health issues that often need not only our intervention but also interaction with other health care providers. What if we didn't talk to one another? What if we forgot that these are real people, with real problems and they need assistance now, not two weeks from now? Why are we making people wait for answers to their questions?

Currently, some of my staff and myself are taking a class with of group of other professional PT's from around the world. We meet through a phone call, which all of us call in to for one hour, every other week. It's an amazing experience to learn, discuss and get input from other colleagues all over the world. Last week as we were having our discussion, I was struck by how important it is for us as health care providers to be in communication with each other. That's where the professional growth happens and that's where we can stretch to develop and see other ideas and ways to provide better patient care. During our discussion, I thought about how fortunate I am to live and work in a community of health care providers who actually care about their patients personally and their outcomes.

I realized that other PT's may not have such a wonderful community as I do to work in. I realized that our MD's, mid-levels go above and beyond the call of duty often sharing their personal cell numbers and email with each other to make sure nothing falls through the cracks with their patients and their families. I was so thankful. Don't get me wrong, we are all human and sometimes the phone calls are missed or we play telephone tag, but in my heart I see this community wanting to remain connected and keep health care personal.

Our office believes that we exist to serve our patients to the best of our ability and to provide the highest quality intervention possible. We attempt to interact with our referring MD's and facilitate a quality relationship. There are times when it is challenging, due to the daily changing insurance authorization and regulation issues that have been established in the past few years. We often feel we are stuck doing more work behind a computer screen than we want too. We touch more paper than we want to, so much for a paperless health care system.

But ultimately, we are physical therapists because we know people need the human touch to heal and be whole. We live and work in our profession to serve people like you so you can return to your favorite sport, hobby or work with less pain and a happy body. Never give up on your health, it is the gift you give yourself everyday and you deserve it and we can help.

•••

Sheree DiBiase, PT, is the owner of Lake City Physical Therapy and she and her incredible staff are thankful to live and work with such an awesome community of health care providers. Come see us for all your physical therapy needs. In Coeur d’Alene (208) 667-1988, Hayden (208) 762-2100 and in our Spokane Valley office at (509) 891-2623.

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