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Choreography in the Medical Practice

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I had the privilege of leading a workshop this past week with a great medical practice’s team that included everyone who interacts with patients. What we worked on could be boiled down to a single word: choreography.  

When we hear that word, we often think of a ballet or a dancing scene in a movie. In a more general sense, choreography refers to the sequencing of movement. It’s why football teams practice plays over and over, so that every movement of those 11 team members happens in unison.  

This same thinking can be applied to a medical practice and the “staging” of a patient visit. Most patients follow a standard pattern between their arrival and their departure. Most of the attention is paid to making sure each step of the visit is properly completed in a specified order. That’s important, as we want to make sure no balls are being dropped when it comes to informing patients. But too little attention is paid to the “handoff” between steps or to understanding how all the steps fit together. The patient flow may look more like a hockey game than a ballet.  

We reviewed “Keep it Fresh”, an insight from Beyond Bedside Manner. Team members said it was a great reminder how important it is to be present with each and every patient. It may be your 10,000th time doing a consult or procedure, but it’s likely the patient’s first time. 

“It was really great to see how all the pieces of our exam fit together,” one newer employee in the practice told me after the workshop. Even veteran employees appreciated the exercise we did (see below) to help uncover areas where we could improve the choreography. We identified several areas that will make the visit better, including having the front desk concierge give a brief overview of what’s going to take place and the technicians having a one-liner to describe each test as it’s being performed. Other recommendations emerged when we looked at what takes place on surgery day and during post-op visits.  

The takeaway here is that focusing on these little details is what can make a big difference in the patient’s overall experience. If you or your team members are feeling rushed (or if your patients are telling you that they are feeling rushed), then it’s time to ask these two questions as you examine each step in the patient visit:  

What are we currently doing well when it comes to the patient experience?

What could we do differently to make the experience a little bit better?  

From the front desk to history/testing to meeting with the doctor and then a counselor or scheduler, each of these stages offers opportunity for improvement. Having your entire team involved – not just those in a specific function or department – gives you the added benefit of teamwork and a group approach to problem-solving that will build culture alongside better ideas.  

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