I recently heard of a consumer survey done at a hotel in which it was found that the guests’ impressions of every factor tested for, the quality of the service, the attractiveness of the rooms, the cleanliness of the common areas, etc., depended upon their satisfaction with the hotel check-in experience.
This is an example of confirmation bias – the tendency to look for and value things that confirm our beliefs and to ignore and undervalue those that don’t. The guests who had a great initial experience saw every other element as being relatively great; those who had a poor experience saw everything else in that same shoddy light.
So what’s this mean for you?
Certainly, if you’re an office practice physician, it means that initial patient contacts, whether truly the first (a call to your front desk person from a potential patient), to a patient’s experience when she first arrives at the office, to how you greet her, sets the tone of overall patient satisfaction. It also impacts the importance of the initial physical aspects of the visit – the neatness of your waiting area, factors such as newer than seven year old copies of Consumer Reports with your home address cut off the cover, and the like.
For hospital-based physicians, generally without control over the physical environment, it makes the value of the initial patient contact even more important. In connection with scheduled procedures, it opens the possibility of stacking the satisfaction odds in your favor through action taken prior to the first in-person contact.
And, for all, it raises the question of fairness in respect of any process by which your performance is judged or ranked. Has someone (or can you) placed their finger on the scale?