Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Customer Is Always Right

You get to know people after a few days in paradise, sitting on lawn chairs in front of the pool.  You talk about where your from and your kids (if you have them).  You might spout off about your job or friends.  These are the pleasant conversations exchanged between vacationing strangers. 

You may learn that one of them has taken ill: woken up per chance on a beautiful idyllic morning with a sore throat and pressure under the cheeks.  Luckily, among the charming amenities of such brilliant resorts, is a doctor on site.  As a physician yourself, you may role your eyes as they describe how the doctor proclaimed sinusitis and ordered an antibiotic.  Not what you would do, is it?  Antibiotics are not necessary for acute sinusitis of short duration, are they?

But then again, resorts are not about making sound medical decisions.  Resorts are about keeping the customer happy.  Do they check one's cholesterol before serving the fatty fillet for dinner?  Does the poolside bar measure blood alcohol levels before serving a drink?

No, of course not.  That business would go under in milliseconds. It is not their job to keep their patrons healthy, it's to keep them happy.  No one is silly to mince these principals. 

Our medical system, on the other hand, is about making people healthy.  Only the most obtuse would also consider it about making people happy.  In fact, often medical practitioners deal with decisions counter to patients happiness.  We tell them to stop eating those sweets they love.  We rip the cigarettes out of their mouths.  And yes, we deny antibiotics when they are unnecessary, no matter how bad we are begged for them. 

We are not in the resort business.  We should not be judged the same.

Patient satisfaction is not a measure of quality.  It's a measure of customer service.  Except in our business, the customer is not always right.

Don't make us give poor medical care by penalizing the strength it takes to give an honest opinion.

What happens if you act like a schmuck and treat your patients poorly?  They vote with their feet. 

That is the most rational satisfaction score around. 

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