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Rated Lower On Satisfaction, Hospitals Blame ‘Cranky’ New Yorkers

Say the headlines. Of course the official explanation is “Well, Manhattan residents are crankier, tougher to satisfy and have higher expectations than those ‘nice’ Midwesterners.”

Really? Let’s parse cause and effect here. (Fair warning: I’m not the least bit sympathetic to the official explanation.)

The NY Times’ article offers an anecdote of a NYC patient waiting 8 hours for an imaging exam and not getting a magazine when she asked for one. And she refused to give the hospital a top score because…she’s CRANKY?

Excuse me?

And there’s this: NYU Medical Center is building new elevators to reduce waiting times, though they won’t be ready until a new building opens in 2017. How long has NYU known about their slow elevators? Decades, probably, yet we’re still 5 years and several hundred million dollars away from a solution. And we’re supposed to believe the problem is…CRANKY PATIENTS?

Excuse me?

I’ve worked in markets ranked #183 (Hinsdale, IL), #27 (Omaha, NE) and now #1 (Mason City, IA.) Admittedly 3 markets – two urban, one fairly rural - is not a huge sample size, but the difference in patient satisfaction scores between them is NOT the patients.

Leadership, culture, training, processes, strategy, focus, investments, priorities, - yes.

Patients – no.

The "our patients are crankier..." explanation is just the latest example of the "our patients are sicker..." nonsense used for 40 years by doctors and hospitals to avoid any and all quality comparisons. I don't buy the excuse-making. You, dear healthcare strategist, shouldn’t either.

The problem, IMHO: Too many leaders walking past problems - er, opportunities – without taking direct, remedial action. The symptoms:

• Talking becomes doing.
• Hiring a consultant becomes action.
• Scripting substitutes for conversation.
• “It’s on my list…” passes for progress.
• “I’ve called a meeting…” becomes accomplishment.
• Taking it to committee is a milestone achieved.
• Forming A NEW committee is considered innovation!
• Bulging PowerPoint decks become communication.
• It’s one priority among many…unless budget realities intervene, then it’s not even that.

And of course, whatever we do, we musn’t upset the docs!

Suddenly Medicare changed the grading curve. “Good enough” no longer is. And some leaders, up against the hard realities of lost revenues, must make twenty years of progress in two. Can you spot the problem here? I can and, once again, IT’S NOT THE PATIENTS!

It's time to say to the excuse-makers "Sometimes when the data say you have room to improve...YOU DO! Deal with it!"

Might New Yorkers have good reason to be cranky?

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