The "Wow" Factor

The "Wow" Factor

Heather Marie Hylton, PA-C

Mar 22, 2012
I’m not sure when it started, but I have a favorite tradition of New Year’s Day bookstore browsing. And buying. Yes, I often buy enough books each January 1st to get me through a couple of years of leisure reading (at least).

And there is much to be said for a book browsing visit to Harvard Square! Among this year’s treasures is a small book of management tips compiled by Harvard Business Review based upon content presented on their website.

While looking through the tips and pondering how applicable many of them are to medicine, I started thinking about the “wow” factor. You know, the quality that someone or something possesses that is invariably impressive (or just plain knocks your socks off).

I was drawn to Fred Reichheld’s post where he talks about “wow!” moments—real examples in which individual employees of companies went out of their way for customers with simple yet much appreciated gestures. And such gestures have the potential to build up a “huge reservoir of goodwill.”

So what are our “wow!” moments in medicine? We can certainly name treatment advances among them but what about the opportunity we have to give our patients “wow!” moments every day merely through our interactions with them?

With all the demands upon us each day, it is difficult to establish uninterrupted time that can meet the needs of each of our patients. In our daily practice and interactions with our patients, there are plenty of tools we use to do our work that also have the power to distract us—pagers, smartphones, email, and the like. Furthermore, our nonverbal cues are of great significance in determining the quality of an interaction. We know the pitfall of hand-on-the-doorknob communication whereas warmth of an interaction is kindled by friendliness, good eye contact, and presenting to the patient with our full attention (as challenging as this may be). Carol Kinsey Goman suggests in her book, The Silent Language of Leaders, nonverbal gestures such as “synchronized movements” and “palm-up hand gestures” are helpful in conveying a sense of warmth interpersonally as well.

It can be difficult to conceive of medicine as a business though today we are more aware than ever of this truth. And in no business is it more appropriate to remember that the customer always comes first. Sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest difference to patients—that extra minute you spent talking about something of personal value to the patient. One practitioner I know likes to open up conversations with patients about the cities in which they live. This shows interest and investment in patients as a whole, not just their disease. And patients remember because these are “wow!” moments for them.

I propose we aim to give our patients more “wow!” moments; for all they go through, they could not be more deserving, and this is a gift we can give them more easily than we think.


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