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Innovation in Medicine

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

Rural hospitals across America have had a tough time over the last few years. Increasing health care costs and shrinking reimbursements from insurance companies and government health programs have really put the squeeze on operating budgets. Some hospitals have closed, as we know only too well in Southeast Kansas. (BTW, health care cost increases pale in comparison to the rising cost of higher education and college related debt, but that’s a subject for another time.) 

The large research hospitals and institutions, are working to cure society’s most serious ills; cancer, Alzheimers, etc. and this is good. However, few medical organizations, from hospitals to medical clinics and offices, are working on innovation in the patient experience. Rural hospitals and clinics are in a battle with each other to lure patients to use their services to keep volumes and hospital census figures at higher levels to maintain their viability through continued uncertainty in the way our society chooses to pay for health care. 

The marketing campaigns tend to center on themes like “our doctors are better than your doctors” or “we have the latest equipment to cure your ills” or “look at this latest award we won or certification we received.” The implication is that “we will take care of you.” Yet many of our visits to these institutions and clinics result in experiences that range from mediocre to awful. 

I’ve been in good health my whole life and remain so now even though I’ve encountered our health care system on numerous occasions over the last few years starting with a hip replacement in November 2015. That surgery went very well and, in fact, the surgeon is my hero; great job on the surgery and a good, friendly individual. Since then, on other issues, I’ve been to ER a couple of times and various hospitals and doctors’ offices not only locally, but in Bartlesville and Tulsa. Through it all, the doctors have been nice enough and competent. Indeed, most of the people doing the work are dedicated and hard-working. This is a world where with each visit, we may have to show our insurance cards and repeat our contact information, even when only a week apart. We may wait 45 minutes for the call to the exam room and another 45 minutes from the time the nurse determines our heart rate and blood pressure to the time the doctor comes through the door. We may call to update a prescription to hear a message telling us to leave our name and number and that “we’ll get back with you within 24 hours.” We’re admonished not to call back as that will only slow the process. Twenty-four hours may pass and we don’t hear back even if the prescription is an important one. 

My comments here are not directed at any one institution nor are they directed at most of the clinical people involved. We are all victims of a health care system that lacks an entrepreneurial mindset in providing not only the best in health care, but also providing a positive, even exceptional patient/customer experience. Marketers are in a tough position as they work hard to attract more patient/customers only to have those patients experience mediocre to awful service. 

We at Fab Lab ICC, have on our drawing board, plans to offer in 2019 a series of one-day leadership retreats for the people managing our clinical organizations where we introduce an entrepreneurial mindset around the theme of “here’s what your patients really want.” We’ll work to make these retreats both a team and patient relationship building experience. Of course, making something in the Lab will be part of the experience. 

Small retailers are learning that the way to compete for repeat customers in a world of box stores and Internet sales is to provide a positive experience each and every time they encounter a customer. Service providers in all clinical disciplines should understand that the best way to complete for patients and clients is to provide and exceptional experience as well as expert clinical care. 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks.  


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