the bottom line
Is Best Practice All It’s
Cracked Up To Be?
By Ed Yoder, MBA, MHA, RT(R), FAHRA
We’ve been talking a lot about branding
and marketing at our facility, something
we’ve not looked at much. So I decided to
go back to some of my MBA books and see
what I could do to brush up on the subject.
I will admit, as an imaging administrator of
mostly community, non-profit hospitals,
marketing is not one of my strong points.
I came across a book by Harry Beckwith
titled, The Invisible Touch: Four Keys to Modern Marketing. I had forgotten what a great
read this book was (I’ve actually highlighted
it in some of my past articles). It’s a quick
read with 237 pages of corporate marketing
stories. I stumbled across one story about
best practices and it was called, “The Fallacy
of Best Practices.” We all know the CMS
push for best practices and “pay for performance,” so the title caught my eye.
The story states that when you walk
into a healthcare clinic or doctor’s office,
you have the overwhelming feeling you’ll
walk back out alive, you just don’t know
when. You arrive early for your appointment by a few minutes, impressed with
your own punctuality, despite the fact you
know the doctor is most likely running
behind and will not see you until later.
Much later. You ask yourself, “What am I
doing here?” Beckwith states, “It’s a good
question to ask because in the healthcare
industry we see you when WE are ready!”
Beckwith offers that this is a great question, as the healthcare industry has set
many other standards because they have a
I would think as an organization or department you would
want to lead the benchmark, not meet someone else’s. To be
successful you want to be copied, not do the copying.
virtual monopoly on the patient’s business. For example, you come in for surgery
and are asked to sit around in a small robe
with your back end half hanging out. You
lose all control over anything that happens
to you. You feel vulnerable. You may get
transferred to other areas for other procedures or exams. This happens at hospitals
and healthcare clinics around the Unites
States. This demonstrates why the industry constantly fails and infuriates its customers.
It is true, though. Think about it. The
one thing the patient loses is control—
control over what happens and when.
Many times, patients are transported to
departments for imaging exams and don’t
even know what they are having done or
why. I know my staff spends a considerable amount of time explaining why the
patient is in the department. I just completed working with a team in my department on developing customer standards
for imaging. One of the standards the staff
indicated they do that makes them successful in customer service scores is to give
some choice back to the patient.
Beckwith states a hospital he knows
decided to change the way they do business
by adding valet service, warm blankets in
procedural areas, trying to adhere to sched-
uled times, doing blood draws after IV
inserts so only one puncture needs to be
done, and allowing ambulatory patients
to walk rather than wait for wheelchairs.
While it was noted that these changes
involved both soft and hard dollars, the
results were impressive. This hospital found
that patients woke up feeling better, recov-
ered faster, and returned home sooner. This
allowed the hospital to increase its peak
capacity by more than 50% as length of
stay decreased! This hospital could now
serve more patients with the same amount
of space while creating a larger revenue
stream. Beckwith says, from a marketing
perspective, this story shows two things:
1. Any industry, even mature ones like
healthcare, can be dramatically changed.
2. Following industry standards, or best
practices, quickly becomes what no
business can afford, which is an invitation to ordinariness.
I like his use of the word “following.” To be a
leader, you do not follow, you lead. I would
think as an organization or department you
would want to lead the benchmark, not