Hospitals Must Hold Private Contractors Accountable for Delivering on Patient Experience

Just before the holidays, a colleague received word that her best friend’s two-year old daughter had been found unresponsive in her crib. She was revived and rushed to the hospital with life-saving measures underway. But the news was not good. The child had gone without oxygen for too long.

My friend, Chris, dropped everything to get to her best friend’s side. She sat in the hospital with the anguished parents for the next 24 hours, watching an endless parade of doctors and nurses running tests, conducting evaluations, trying to comfort the hopeful mother and father. Sadly, the little girl died.

I can’t begin to imagine the depth of grief that the parents and four-year old brother of this young girl are experiencing; just seeing the raw pain etched in Chris’ face brought me to tears as well.

The doctors and nurses in our hospitals are cast in these real life dramas every day. And, occasionally, despite their most heroic efforts, some patients don’t survive. But the intensity of their clinical efforts combined with caring and compassion, are essential to healing the wounded hearts of the families and friends left behind.

A child’s death is not the ‘patient experience’ we want to address in our brand and patient satisfaction discussions, but it was nonetheless the ‘experience’ that this family endured. They will remember the kindness of the staff.

When Chris reluctantly left her friends’ side to return home to her own family, she walked to the hospital parking garage (which is run by an outsourced contractor) to retrieve her car only to learn from the attendant that “this lot closed at 6 pm.”

“Can I just get my keys?” asked Chris. “I need to go home.”

Learning that the keys were sent elsewhere at 6 pm, she treks in the frigid evening air to another building on an unfamiliar campus to retrieve keys from another attendant that began to lecture her about the rules and regulations of the parking garage.

“Can you cut me a break?” she pleaded, “I’ve been with a dying child.” Then she got her keys, walked back to the garage, and drove home to hug her own kids.

The moral of the story? Everyone, from the highly specialized doctor to the parking attendant, creates experiences that live in our customers’ memories. When a parking attendant is inconvenienced rather than sensitive to the harried, worried, hurried, sad or pained needs that characterize families and visitors of the hospitalized, he or she tarnishes your brand. Outsourced operators that touch patients and visitors need to be held to the same expectations of customer care, concern and service.

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