A family medical emergency has required a lot of my attention and time this past week, including a short-notice trip to my inlaws in Midland, Michigan. Some of you may know about Midland, a rather unique small town with a couple of major employers: Dow Corning and Dow Chemical. Dow, and the Dow family members, have been exceptionally generous to the town, which thanks to them has top notch schools, arts centers, and medical facilities.
My father-in-law was admitted to the Mid-Michigan Medical Center, which has received several national awards for clinical excellence. During his two week stay the quality of actual clinical activities appeared to be excellent as expected. But a few incidents irked, and then angered the customer-centric lean guy in me.
There were small incidents with the food menu, receiving shots, and physical therapy. But that paled in comparison to our experience this past weekend. On Friday morning the hospital decided that it had done everything possible for my father-in-law, and the "social worker" (you’ll soon see why this is a misnomer) called us to arrange a discharge to an assisted living center for further recuperation and therapy.
She gave us an hour.
An hour to visit three facilities at different ends of town, evaluate them, and arrange for admitting. On a Friday afternoon at 3pm, only a couple hours after we had to deal with the news that the brain tumor was probably inoperable. In that state of mind my mother-in-law and my wife had to rush around frantically in an attempt to make this very difficult decision. In the meantime the hospital had gone ahead and fax’d discharge information to all three facilities to speed up the process. Luckily my wife told a nurse at one facility about what the hospital was doing to us and she told us that we really had to agree to a facility before the hospital could do anything. With this in mind we chose a facility that had an opening on Monday, and notified Larissa. She continued to badger my wife about needing an immediate discharge, but with her new knowledge my wife pretty much told them it would be Monday, period.
I can understand the business side of the hospital’s story: they had an influx of patients to accomodate, and needed the room. But who is the customer? The shareholders of the hospital, or the patient? I think most of us would argue the patient.
Mid-Michigan Medical Center has worked hard for a high quality image. They are very proud (judging from the numerous banners, some signed by many employees) of their awards. But their future success will be driven by the experience of their customers. Perhaps a little constrained due to healthcare supply limitations and the complexities of insurance plans, but over time the market will still prevail.
Bill Waddell recently wrote a great post on "Looking Versus Being" [Lean]. The same concept applies to excellence. It is relatively easy to look excellent, but being excellent, especially in the eyes of your true customers, is another matter.