Basing medical care on patient satisfaction is as smart as basing elementary education on child satisfaction. The patient who wants a cheeseburger while going to the OR shouldn’t influence hospital reimbursement any more than the child who wants recess all day should influence school reimbursement. By tying health care funds to the opinions of patients, we are letting the kids run the school.
Doctor-patient relationships are based on the trust that we’ll use our expertise to better those we serve. We spend nearly a decade training with the altruistic aim of helping the sick, not with the profit-minded scheme of selling to customers. “The customer is always right” was one of my dad’s mantras in his sales career. He probably never imagined that patients, who didn’t go through medical school and residency, would become customers. “They’re not customers. They’re patients. Customers pay,” quipped one of my colleagues to an administrator. He was right. Many of the sick we see can provide no payment in return, but we treat them anyway because we took a Hippocratic Oath to uphold ethical standards and care for those in need. That is not a customer service model.
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Sandra Scott Simons is an emergency physician. This article originally appeared in Emergency Medicine News.
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