Doctors are supposed to do three basic things: think, do and feel. Thinking is the cognitive component of recall, interpretation, problem solving and analysis. Doing involves performing procedures. Feeling includes all those things that fall under the category of “bedside manner”. Everyone from those who occupy the corner office, to medical educators, to marketeers to chief medical officers are tripping over themselves trying to get doctors to do what they are suppposed to do, if , for nothing else, to improve the patient experience, a word that seems to be overused as much as “hero” and “innovation”.
Unfortunately, it might be time to own up to the fact that, given the way the healthcare world is turning, that might be an unrealistic expectation. Are there doctors who excel at all three? Sure. But my guess is that 20% of the doctors do 80% of the feeling. The same holds true for the doing. Marketing experts tell us that very few if any companies excel at all value factors, Walmart does price. Starbucks does experience. Seven Eleven does convenience. Zappos does service.
The idea is to dominate in one category, differentiate in another and be at least competitive in all the rest. It is almost impossible to scale a company that is all things to all market segments. You’ve got to pick your spot and focus on being #1 or #2 in a particular place. Jack Welch really liked that idea when he was at GE.
The same might hold true for medicine. Perhaps we should own up to that reality and adapt how care is delivered to cover all the bases, but not expect one person to do it.
Medicine is becoming more commoditized and thinking is best done, it seems, by the likes of Watson. Sure, patients want their doctors to be smart. But, psychologists have indentified multiple types of intelligence and many are clamoring for a way to recruit those with those aptitudes.
It’s unlkely that surgeons will have to worry about the threat of substitutes any time soon, but technicians are a looming presence.
And, when it comes to finding feelers, there are plenty of ways to identify those who are empathic, have excellent customer service skills and can serve as practice surrogates when the doc might be able to cut one thing, but can’t cut the mustard. We call them front office staff who run cover.
Triple threats are all over the place. They supposedly live in the halls of academic medical centers (teaching, research and patient care) as well as on the gridiron (pass, punt and kick). In this age of specialization, my guess is that there as few in clinics as there are in the NFL. Now that the NFL draft is upon us,maybe it’s time to recruit for the skill positions.