Patient Centered Care – How Two Broken Bones Identified a Language Barrier

Every industry or field of business has it’s own jargon, we all know that.  But do your customers speak it or even understand you when you speak with them?

We hit a milestone at our house yesterday… our first broken bones. My 11 year old son was fooling around as boys do and slipped and fell with a loud crash.  Once I found that I couldn’t calm him down and these were true wails of pain, I rushed him to the nearest Urgent Care center not really knowing what to expect.  I was figuring this was a severe wrist sprain or possible fracture since that was what he landed on when he fell. With three kids, we’ve been pretty lucky with very few injuries, but I had a feeling this was going to be a bad one.

The staff at the center wrapped his arm right away while we were in the waiting room to keep it immobilized until we could be seen.  X-rays were taken and then the doctor came in.

The radius and ulna are both fractured and we are a little concerned because the fractures are very close to the growth plates. We are waiting for a wet read from the attending orthopedic, but he is in the OR right now.”

Now, I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person and I do have a background in medical office management, but I was lost at radius. I was also not in my normal professional processing mode since “Mommy Mode” had taken over and I was trying to console my son since the pain medicine had not kicked in yet.

Once the doctor saw the puzzled look on my face, the doctor said “I’m sorry, this is what I do all the time and I need to remember to speak parent language.   Your son has broken both bones in his right arm very close to the wrist.  Because the fracture is close to the growth plates that could impact some nerves, I’m waiting to hear back from the specialist at the hospital to determine if we need to do surgery tonight.  He’s performing a surgery at the moment, but we are hopeful to hear back within the hour.”

This physician did a very smart thing.  He gave me an explanation right away of the medical terminology he used the first time.  He told me what I needed to know as a parent so that I could process and plan from that point for the best treatment.  While we were waiting, he asked what I do and I explained that I’m a trainer and consultant for customer satisfaction and retention.

He lit up with this and explained how he trains his staff to remember that patients in the center are there because they have to be, not because they want to be there.  He also reminds them to put themselves in the patients shoes when they hear a scary diagnosis or are getting impatient while waiting.  This physician understands what being customer and patient centered is all about.

The way that the staff and physician treated us during our 4 hours at the center helped make the situation so much more manageable.  They checked back with us every 10 minutes to let us know they were still waiting to hear from the specialist and to help alleviate my son’s pain.  They also told us a little about what to expect for the next few days in regards to his pain and the casting process.

It turns out that we were lucky and didn’t need surgery.  My son will get his cast first thing tomorrow morning.  It’s just too bad we don’t have a really great story to tell his friends as to how the fracture happened.

The point of this story is to remind all of you that when you use the lingo or jargon that is so common to you, please remember that it isn’t what your customers typically understand.
  Be clear and specific as to what they need to know and how it impact them.  They often need to follow up or go through some process based on your information, so it’s important that they understand everything clearly.

Any questions or comments?  I’d love to hear them! Please leave your comment below….

Please share your thoughts and opinions here...