Are you listening?
For those of you just joining us, welcome to our ongoing series based on the characters created in my book, Heroes Need Not Apply, “How to build a patient-accountable culture without putting more on your plate.” The book shows how focusing on what matters most to patients, having the right mind-set and having a common direction can bring two people together to ignite an entire organization.
Come meet our fictional characters CEO Jane Carolli and her new, game-changing VPMA, Dr. Jack Martin as they focus the culture at Angels of Seattle hospital around what matters most to patients. Our last issue left us with Jane and Jack visiting about the relationship between better all around communication for patients to get them what they really need, while helping organizations achieve their goals at the same time.
If you want to improve your culture, you must start by focusing on building trusting relationships. But how do we do that when physicians and staff don’t trust each other and a growing number of patients I speak to don’t trust their primary care physicians?
Listen to what Jack and Jane had to say about trust at Angels of Seattle…
Jane was a little miffed. She and Jack had started the process of healing the culture at Angels of Seattle at the top, one person at a time. Most of the management team was onboard, but a few couldn’t let go of the command and control system they’d been living by the last 25-30 years, and a few, probably never would. Jane was particularly annoyed at how one of her best doctors just wouldn’t budge. When Jack came through her office door, she jumped right into her thoughts…
“Jack, I’m going crazy here - Dr. Lambert, Mike Lambert is one of the best doctors we have and I can’t get him to talk to, much less build a relationship with his colleagues, never mind someone he considers below him like a nurse.”
‘Well good morning to you too Jane. I’m guessing you’ve been stewing on this a while and my timing is precipitous if anything.”
“Sorry Jack, I just hit a speed bump…”
“No worries - okay Jane, first off, what do you mean by Lambert is one of my best doctors?”
“This guy has an incredible record Jack. He’s probably the best neurosurgeon in the city, and a month doesn’t go by where someone doesn’t try to poach him. His clinical ability is known internationally and brings in some of the most high profile cases out there.”
Jack paused. “Okay, so you’re saying the best doc is the best clinician… right?
“Well yes… I mean no… I mean, come on Jack. You know this guy… and we both know if someone had to cut into our brain, we’d choose him.”
“Fair enough Jane. But let’s put him aside for a second and look at the forest, not just one super special tree. All of our doctors are really good clinicians. We have an exemplary staff when it comes to training, education, clinical abilities… but we still have all these problems that you and I are trying to fix… why is that?”
Jane smiled. “It’s easy to forget Jack. With all the skills in the world, if they can’t connect with their colleagues, much less a nurse, all they are doing is keeping us from giving patients what matters most to them.”
“And Jane, let’s be the patient for a minute. When you sit down to meet your primary care physician, what do you want the most?”
“Easy enough, you want someone to talk to you in a language you can understand, then, most important… you want them to listen without interrupting you.” She took a beat. “ You know Jack, you,re the one that told me that 90% of the time the patient will give you the diagnosis if you just let them talk.”
“Yeah Jane, but the problem is, most docs won’t let a patient talk for more than 10-20 seconds without interrupting. And the thing is, if they would just listen a little longer, they’ll end up getting it right the first time.”
“Which potentially means less visits back here.”
“Right Jane, but it also gives the doc a better chance at finding the root cause of the problem. When a doc doesn’t have the entire picture…”
Jane interrupted, “ By not listening… as I interrupt you.”
“Funny… So when the doc doesn’t have the full picture he’s most likely to prescribe symptomatic relief, and we’re more likely to see the patient again in the near future. But when they fully listen to their patients, they not only have a better chance of solving the problem, they truly gain the trust of the patient.”
Jack continued, “So that brings me back to the dilemma you were suffering through when I walked through the door. Mike Lambert.”
“Right, thanks. Yes, Mike has great skills, but he’s missing the kind of skills we need to change things around here.”
“So tell me Jane, what does Dr. Lambert need more than anything?”
“He needs to learn how to listen. But how do I teach him that?”
“How did I teach you Jane?”
“Duh. You coached me. You asked me the right questions and you gave me the time to answer them. You asked questions which set me up to come up with answers that illustrated the critical importance of listening. And there’s nothing more powerful than coming up with your own answers…”
“That’s how I began to build trust with you. And that’s what you need to do with Mike Lambert. It may or may not work, but if Mike can’t learn to communicate better and trust the people he works with, then he’s only going to slow us down as we work to build a culture that’s accountable to patients.”
Get some data and read more about building trust in the article: “Do you trust your primary care physician?" by STEPHEN C. SCHIMPFF, MD at:
Is your culture aligned to what matters most to patients?...