So started the email from Mustique Airlines the day before we were to depart for our long-awaited Caribbean sailing vacation in the Grenadine islands.  I had spent weeks on American Express Travel, Kayak, Priceline and numerous tiny Caribbean airline sites trying to piece together flights for 6 family members from New York to any one of the islands in the St Vincent & the Grenadines chain.  There were certainly no direct flights, and none of the major airlines had anything that didn’t require about a half day layover somewhere.  Ultimately I found a flight on JetBlue from JFK to Barbados, and wound up chartering a private plane from Mustique Air to fly us from Barbados to the tiny island of Bequia, where our sailing yacht, Good Medicine, would be waiting for us.

So now what what were we supposed to do just one day before traveling?!  Would we be stuck in Barbados? (I know, not the worst place in the world to be “stuck”, but no hotel booked, and crew aboard Good Medicine had vacation plans too)   Dread, then panic started to course through my veins as I continued reading the email:

“The repairs should be completed by August 02nd. “(This was July 27th)  “Your departure time from Barbados will remain the same, however, the charter flight will have to be diverted to St. Vincent.”  

OK, great, so we’re not stuck in Barbados, but now I have to figure out how to get from St. Vincent to Bequia!  I had not researched this and had little time left.  More fretting.

Then, I read something completely unexpected, immediately expelling all dread and panic from just a few seconds before:

“When you arrive here, we will make arrangements for a taxi to take you to the ferry port and you will be transported to Bequia via the boat ferry. We will also cover the cost of the ferry.  We do sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused and look forward to flying you.

Kind regards,
Allicia”

WOW!  Closure of the Bequia Airport was certainly not the fault of Mustique Air, but here they were apologizing for our inconvenience and had completely solved our problem.  I had nothing else to worry about, except that the trip would take longer than planned.  Not only that, but the repairs to the airport weren’t made by the time we were to go home.  They sent out a young man in a dinghy to find our boat in Bequia harbor the night before to bring me to the travel agent awaiting ashore to brief me on a similar plan to ferry back to St Vincent and fly to Barbados.

This is customer service as it should be.  Going beyond expectations, solving customer problems.

Improving Patient Experience

How can we apply this to serving the needs of our patients?  Here are a few of my favorite ways to create an exceptional patient experience:

  1. Keep them informed if there are any delays for their appointment or wait time if
    a walk-in.  Preferably, before they get to the office via electronic means, text, phone call, etc.
  2. If they are waiting in an exam room, let them know they have not been forgotten, another patient is taking longer than expected or whatever the reason, and offer to get them a magazine, or better yet, have wifi available so they can use their iPad while they wait!
  3. When recommending a patient see a specialist or have an outside diagnostic test, go ahead and MAKE the appointment for them while they are still in the office.
  4. CALL the patient a day or two after their visit to see how they are doing, any problems with meds, did they get their meds, any new symptoms, etc.  If there are lab tests or other diagnostics pending, I’ll wait 2 days and have the doctor call back with results.  If the patient was quite ill, the doc should call back the next day.  Nurse or MAs can call on less sick patients.
  5. CALL with any lab, imaging or consult report to go over the results with the patient, answer any questions they have, and arrange any follow up needed for same, even if not in your office, e.g. specialist visit
  6. For worker’s comp patients, call the contact person at your client company to inform them of the results of the visit, will the patient be returning to work, if not, when, do they have any restrictions/modifications, are they getting any outside tests or referrals to specialists, PT, when is the follow up planned, etc.  Do this for every visit.

How do you create an exceptional patient experience in your practice?

Books on Patient Experience

Transforming Health Care: Virginia Mason Medical Center’s Pursuit of the Perfect Patient Experience

Wendy Leebov’s Essentials for Great Patient Experiences: No-Nonsense Solutions with Gratifying Results

Patient Practitioner Interaction: An Experiential Manual for Developing the Art of Health Care