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Are patients “customers”?

There’s a growing movement in medicine to start thinking of patients as customers and to develop a customer satisfaction mentality in medical practices and hospitals. William Maples, M.D., Executive Director and Chief Experience Officer for The Institute for Healthcare Excellence, gives us his input on the advantages and disadvantages of this shift in mindset.

Thinking of patients as customers enables a shift to true patient-centered care where physicians and clinical teams define and execute care plans to restore health with their patients. Having a customer mindset will create an environment where we truly serve patients and meet their total needs. This includes not only medical/diagnostic but also spiritual and cultural needs. This will allow patients to buy-in to their treatment plans and improves compliance with the overall care plan.


This also leads to not only improved health, due to increased compliance, and but also eliminates needless waste from care plans that the patient doesn’t buy into. Engaging patients as partners also provides another critical set of eyes and ears, which will enhance the overall safety of care. The financial benefits are also significant and a result of increased patient loyalty and trust.

The doctor-patient relationship extends much deeper than a customer relationship, as it centers on restoring health and life. When patients come in for care they’re often in times of great need and vulnerability. The relationship between doctors and patients has a more sacred meaning and requires deep kindness, compassion, trust, and empathy. Although customers can be well served, the key elements of kindness, compassion, trust, and empathy are not essential for all customer relationships.

The customer mindset does not pollute the doctor-patient relationship, as long as they remember that the doctor-patient relationship is enveloped by kindness compassion, trust, and empathy.

Learn more about the work that Dr. Maples conducts here.

Medical Errors & Communication

As the complexity of medicine increases, there is a greater need for teams to work effectively together with the patient at the center of the team to maximize outcomes and safety. This requires a culture of trust where every member of the team feels safe to share what he/she is observing as the team navigates through a care pathway.  At the root of building this trust is effective, open, honest, and authentic communication between all members of the team.

It is estimated that up to 50% of preventable medical errors are related to a breakdown in communication, and in particular the first step of effective communication which is mindfulness/presence.  The key to decreasing preventable medical errors is to build a culture of safety which is rooted in effective, authentic, and compassionate communication. Get started today and contact us to see how we can work together to improve healthcare in America.

Train-the-Trainer: Navy Medicine West

The Institute for Healthcare Excellence (IHE) faculty conducted a Communication in Healthcare Train-the-Trainer session for 25 physicians and healthcare providers at Camp Pendleton, California on June 1-3. The course will launch the Communication in Healthcare Curriculum for Navy Medicine West. The IHE faculty was honored to work with a talented multi-disciplinary Navy team from Camp Pendleton and Balboa. They look forward to returning later this month.

The IHE faculty members are also working with military healthcare providers in the National Capital Region as they expand the Patient-Centered Communication Curriculum in their region.