Perception is more important reality

If Disney Ran Your Hospital, patient perceptions of care would be more important than the actual care they received.

A few years ago, while Andre Agassi was still in the peak of his career, Canon advertised their new "rebel" camera with Andre, and the tagline: "Image is everything."

Lee explores a slight variation of that: perceptions are more important than reality. Sounds weird, but hang with me.

Let's pretend you are a patient in a hospital. It's late at night and you are half-asleep in your room. The nurse comes in, checks up on you and then quickly closes the door as she leaves. How do you feel? You might think she's in a rush to get to another patient (wow, this hospital is always so packed). You might think it inconsiderate (hey, I wanted that open!). Or maybe the nurse went out to talk behind your back.

Well, the truth was the nurse knew that the next shift was coming in and it would be getting loud outside. The truth is that she closed the door to minimize the noise from the changing shift report - she closed the door because she's a considerate nurse. But you didn't know that. You're still thinking about what you did to deserve this.

Good intentions and good care don't always lead to the perception of good care.

To impact patient perceptions (and thus, satisfaction), those good intentions have to be verbalized. This isn't showing off or brown-nosing. This is simply matching up your actions and words with your intentions in order to assure the patient and to avoid misunderstanding.

The nurse could have left, asking "Do you want me to close the door? it gets kinda noisy out there during shift change. It won't be too much longer." That 10 seconds of verbalizing done over 1,000s and 1,000s of patient interactions creates a perception, "hey, these people are looking out for me."

All of us are all too familiar with this idea from everyday life. We incorrectly read into things, others incorrectly read into our actions. It's why this book on the 5 different "languages of love" is an top 100, selling 2.5 million+. Many relationships fall apart not because the love has faded, but that the love isn't understood by the other. It's as if they are speaking a different language.

We have to see every interaction with patients from their perspective, not ours. Their perception of the care they are receiving is more important than most of us think. When we learn how to manage perceptions, customers sing our praises, and word-of-mouth starts kickin' in.

Still doesn't sit well? How can perceptions be more important than reality? After chewing on it, I think these two statements help:
- perception IS the patient's reality.
- the reality that patients experience (i.e. perception) > the actual reality of the situation.

How do we get staff trained to do this? I'll leave that for Lee to explain in his book - it definitely takes a different skill set to manage perceptions. All I'll say is this question isn't the right question because training isn't even the half of it.

8-Part Series on "If Disney Ran Your Hospital"

The 8 Big Impact Ideas from “If Disney Ran Your Hospital”
1. Perceptions > Reality
2. Courtesy > Efficiency
3. Patient Loyalty > Patient Satisfaction
4. Experience > Service > Product
5. Intrinsic Motivation > Extrinsic Motivation
6. Habit > Imagination > Willpower > Compliance
7. Dissatisfaction > Complacency
8. Doing > Knowing