They say, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Going the extra mile can have a huge impact on improving both the patient experience and the employee experience. As we discussed in my book, 99 Lessons, it’s crucial patients feel like employees are constantly going the extra mile for them. But as a leader, especially today, in the middle of a pandemic, your role is not to take care of the patient—the leader’s role is the care and feeding of your employees.

Someone recently said, “If Covid was the earthquake, then PTSD is the aftershock.”

Going the extra mile for your employees first and foremost means checking in with them (often) on the human side. “How are you? How is your family? Are you getting enough sleep? What can I do to help?”

A key role for leaders in healthcare today is to remove the barriers for the employees to do their job. Sending a family meal to their home could go a long way for your employee. Maybe it’s assisting them in getting their car repaired, helping give them a ride. Whatever it is, the more you take care of your employees, the more they will take care of your patients.

In the book, we talk about going the extra mile in the patient experience. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and it shouldn’t cost a lot of money.

To start, consider encouraging the front reception desk team to create a system to make things warmer and more patient-friendly.

For example, in many primary care clinics and surgery waiting areas in hospitals, the standard operation is for a medical assistant to stand by the door of the waiting area and shout your name out to the entire group of people waiting.

When my wife goes to the doctor for a scheduled appointment, and she is the only female waiting in the room, why does the medical assistant stand with a hand on the back office door and just yell out her name? Because they have always done it that way. That is how the assistant was trained and that’s how she will train others, until someone asks the patient, “Is that what you want?”

If Disney ran the waiting area at this office, the medical assistant would walk right up to my wife and say, “Mrs. Poore, we’re ready to take you back now.” Even if there were many women in the waiting area, they would know which one is Mrs. Poore. How does Disney do it? Simple. When a patient checks in, the receptionist writes down unique clothing identifiers to distinguish that patient from others in the reception area. They might even use quotes to communicate the name the patient prefers to be called.

If patient “Bob Jones” is wearing a blue shirt and has a white beard, the front desk team can make a small note on the patient folder. Then, the medical assistant can read that note and easily walk directly to the patient to invite him back to the clinical area. This is certainly friendlier and kinder than shouting ‘MR. JONES. MR. ROBERT JONES’ from the door.

Why is it called going the extra mile? The average clinic sees about 30-50 patients per day. By walking an extra 30 feet over to each patient and by greeting them quietly and personally, the patient will feel like a VIP! But also, if you add up all the patients you see that week, you will likely walk an extra mile (or 5,280 feet).