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Physician, Heal Thy Way Of Doing Business

Until now, the health care industry has never felt any great need to acquire marketing and customer service skills, says sales educator Kim Cooper.

“What other business is there,” asks the president and founder of the American Sales College of Spokane, “where the employees are more important than the customer?”

How true, as anyone who has spent any time around a doctor’s waiting room can testify. Patients are made to feel they are there merely as a convenience to the doctor and his staff - of less importance than the office furniture.

Historically, fee-for-service medicine enabled the doctor and his hired help to run the practice pretty much as it suited their purposes. And what the patient might like or dislike mattered little.

To the contrary, Cooper says, “Suppliers, retailers and direct-sale companies have always understood that customer satisfaction and the soliciting of new customers were integral to their success.”

But now the tables are being turned. An ever-growing emphasis on cost control and rapidly escalating competition with managed health care systems are placing a premium on patient satisfaction.

At least, that’s Cooper’s theory, based on lengthy personal investigation into the changing needs of the health care industry. His company has just completed a five-week training program in three states for Unicare Health Facilities Inc.

And Cooper anticipates a national demand for two new courses American Sales College has developed - “Patient Satisfaction,” and “Network Marketing for Health Care Professionals.”

While traveling to conduct the Unicare training, Cooper says, he had ample time to discuss doctor/patient relationships with strangers. “It’s amazing,” he marvels, “how quickly people will share with you their dissatisfaction with medical care.”

Many complained that they almost never actually got to see their doctor, but were usually treated by a nurse. And these patients came away with the distinct impression that the physician’s office help viewed themselves as more important than the patients themselves.

Cooper says his research into emerging health care trends also turned up an “alarming” incidence of malpractice suits filed as a consequence of poor customer service.

An attorney for the American Medical Association told him, Cooper says, “that 60 percent of malpractice suits are dismissed in favor of the physician. According to the AMA spokesperson,” said Cooper, “the common denominator in many of these frivolous suits is patient dissatisfaction regarding overall service.”

Much of the dissatisfaction, says the educator, stems from poor communications, which can lead to unrealistic expectations.

One of his favorite examples is a report he unearthed about a man who went to a lawyer to file a suit against his doctor because the doctor wanted to give him an electrocardiogram. “He explained to the lawyer that his doctor had already given him two electrocardiograms,” Cooper said, “and they did him no good.”

Cooper founded the American Sales College a few years ago to offer customer service and sales training in the retail trade, the focus of his company’s curricula still today.

Last Monday’s column on Spokane retail sprawl included some misinformation about Shadle Shopping Center.

I wrote that plans for redevelopment of Shadle Shopping Center include three new anchor-class stores.

“Such is not the case,” says John Bennett, president of Tomlinson Black Management Inc. Shadle “will continue to be anchored by Safeway, Lamonts apparel, Newberrys, Ernst and PayLess Drug,” said the property manager.

However, he said plans do call for “three new pad sites along Wellesley. One is likely to accommodate First Interstate Bank, with the others likely to site restaurants and retailers.”

In addition, a retail, restaurant or multiplex theater building is envisioned for the center’s southwest corner.

Plus plans provide for a new retail slot west of the existing PayLess.

Demolition of the present Safeway and First Interstate Bank quarters, along with the former Penney’s store, will clear the way for redevelopment, including constructing a new Safeway superstore.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Column

MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Tags: business

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