Sometimes we don’t even realize the impact of the words we’re using in daily conversation with patients and with one another.
Words hold power and the ones we choose to use can either positively or negatively affect the total customer experience.
For instance, let’s say a doctor’s office is running behind schedule due to unforeseen circumstances. Patients are getting frustrated. How do you think they would feel if a nurse or doctor or other care team member says Sorry for the wait, the doctors are really backed up today because they’re short-staffed.
While that may be the truth, it’s a negative statement and it creates a wall between the care team and the patients.
It’s also a double-edged sword, because guess who often takes the brunt of the patients’ frustration? The staff!
Patients will unleash on them without a care in the world because they believe they don’t need the staff as much as they need their doctor.
However, if the doctor, nurse or other care professional says Forgive us but we’re running a little behind today. We never should have left you sitting here…
Now, it’s about ownership and the most important word in that sentence is WE.
The word “they” shifts the blame. But the word “WE” takes ownershp.
That’s certainly more patient-focused and more intentional, but let’s take it to the next level.
By saying “We’re running behind” is better because it doesn’t shift blame. Instead, it elicits a bit of empathy. But you know what? It’s still what we call VERBAL GRAFFITI.
Why? Because while it’s addressed the problem it still doesn’t make the patient feel any better about being kept waiting.
One team of healthcare providers at a hospital out west discovered a solution.
Even though they used the word WE, they realized they were opening a can of worms if their doctors said to a patient, “Hello Mary, we’re so sorry to keep you waiting….we’ve been so backed up today….”
While this might make Mary feel better temporarily, it ended up wasting the doctor’s time (and the patient’s time) because now he or she had to explain why they were backed up. This has nothing to do with why patient Mary is here and it’s probably a safe bet to say Mary doesn’t care why they were backed up!
They discovered that if their doctors used words that were intentionally chosen to address the patient’s concerns and needs, it made a huge difference. For instance: Hello Mary, thank you for waiting. I’m sorry we kept you waiting so long…..now, how are you feeling?
By being intentional with the words they use, the caregivers can address the problem or issue, apologize, and then shift the focus right back to the patient who’s right in front of them.
Intentional cultures have employees who use intentional words. And this, in turn, creates a better patient experience.