Dr. Aruyaru is a Consultant General and Laparoscopic Surgeon and a Healthcare Manager. He has solid experience in managing busy
Sometimes back I was invited by my alma matter to the annual convocation cum freshman dinner. While thinking on what remarks to make, I thought of reflecting on the first five years as a consultant and what life lessons I have learnt that may resonate with a new consultant setting out for work. That speech did not happen, so my thoughts remained as thoughts. In a month or less, I got into a conversation with former schoolmates on the sidelines of a scientific conference. One of the stand out observations was how time was flying since we have been out of training.
‘ I cannot believe it has been five years!’, I said.
‘I cannot believe it is already 10!’, another observed.
I got back from that conversation wondering, what are the lessons I have learned on the surgical streets during those 5 years?
I christen them five lessons at five, what young consultants would love to hear as they hit the ground running
2. DO NOT PASS THE BUCK
Hurry S Truman was the 33rd president of the United States. He is famously known for having a sign on his table reading “the buck stops here”
In the healthcare setting it is easy to pass the buck- ‘ask the insurance desk; that is a problem of the lab, not me; I do not handle money issues’; etc.
But if we once in a while stop passing the buck and consider every client as our sole responsibility, we will increase efficiency and improve customer experience. The benefits are more actually. Every so often instead of sending the patient back to get the proper results, I get to stand up and walk to the lab or radiology department. Then I learn a challenge with the lab posting the results despite having them as I needed. Or radiology having a challenge with the doctor’s comments in the request form because they used the receipt instead of the clinical request. Some problems being systemic, others managerial and yet others purely personal- capacity or attitude. The same goes for the customer care desk, the triage room, the other ancillary services. The most interesting ones are the rejected insurance claims that need ‘ detailed medical report’. I once in a while have had to ask the team to let the insurance corresponding officer call me so I can understand what angle they needed elaborated. I made a good friend and admirer with a certain regional Q/A officer because I was forthright and willing to take them through the thinking and the urgency in the cases we engaged on.
As a result, I have learned a lot. So much so that I actually opened a diary (not a strict daily one) titled ‘what did I learn today?’. Story for another day. When I try this approach, of holding and not passing the buck, I find that every patient helps me to orient myself to the very establishment I am in on matters I may have taken for granted. Every patient has a different angle. But it is the process, (the system) that benefits. If I can fix three non clinical process issues within my consultation room, that might be a three hour drop in the patient clinical journey. It means less queues for the other officers who may be overwhelmed in certain areas.
In addition, the experience and lessons gained from the approach means you can accurately guide the patient on what will happen where you are sending them. That explanation gives them an expectation and relieves their anxiety.
What about delegating? Of course I delegate a lot. But those intentional instances of holding there and sorting everything for one client (or near everything) is a gold mine in customer experience that I would not trade for anything.
When I cleared my training, I may not have figured this as succinctly as I do now. I may have gone an extra mile here and there based on an emergency. But I also relied on heavily efficient other offices to do their jobs well most of the time, which they did.
I should have strived to stop the buck more often then. That way I would learn more and more and more. But the learning continues.