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Interview with Kathleen Benner Part III: Doctors Need to Listen More Than 18 Seconds

Posted by ClearDirections on April 12th, 2011 in Communication, Financial, Hospital Management, Innovation, Lack of Coordination | No Comments

After reading about Kathleen Benner, the vibrant and energetic president of Hospital Companions and Empowering Pages, both of which are based in Hinsdale, IL, in a Crain’s Chicago Business article last year, I connected with her to find ways to help her healthcare startup. She also is an attorney and mother of three with her entrepreneur husband, all who keep her balanced. To view more about her healthcare businesses, visit http://hospitalcompanions.com/ and http://empoweringpages.com/. Her companies’ mission is to bring peace of mind to both the patients and families they serve. Read on to hear more about her ideas to help you become a “Best Competitor.”

Stillman: Any other overall suggestions for improving America’s healthcare system, not just looking at the patient experience?

Benner: Of course. I can’t say it loudly enough: medical malpractice reform. It’s coming from a legal background and reading some of the cases. Yes, there are some horrendous things that happen, of course. But, we have to reform that system. It is dragging on costs. It is putting insurance companies in a much more difficult position and the doctor in a much more difficult position. That would be my first recommendation.

I have never written to a senator or President before, but when they were doing the healthcare reform talk, I wrote to the President, to my senators and my representatives and said, “How are you not talking about medical malpractice reform as an integral part of this?” To be able to improve, you have to remove the shackles of malpractice.

The other issue is insurance portability. My husband and I are both self-employed, so our healthcare insurance is our single largest payment every month. I don’t know why I can’t shop in North Dakota for insurance. You know what I mean? Why can’t we compete across state lines? More competition seems to be better. These companies already exist. They’re already providing this type of a service.

You know, my parents went through the same thing when were moving from Illinois to Florida when they had to obtain new insurance from Florida. I think that the portability of your insurance and to be able to compete over state lines would help the healthcare system, because again, you’re going to be approaching costs at that point. More competition would lead to better insurance programs being developed.

Stillman: I have to admit, I never had to think about that in terms of switching from state to state. I wasn’t aware that when you move that you would have to switch insurance.

Benner: The other thing that’s crazy is the volume of patients physicians see in a day. Some physicians I know are seeing 45 to 65 patients a day. How do you provide personalized, effective healthcare to 45 to 65 people a day?

Stillman: That’s pretty much the norm, and some think nothing of it. I agree. How could you possibly connect with 45 to 65 people in one day, and affect their health status in a meaningful way? At some point, it would seem impossible for them to see their patients as anything more than widgets. I have to imagine at the end of a long week, some think, “How many more are we just going to touch and get through the assembly line so I can get out of here?”

Benner: Yes. I read a study that a doctor lets a patient talk for 18 seconds before he or she typically interrupts them. That’s the average. So, some doctors are treating people literally how they present in that moment, but they’re not looking any further back or forward in the lives of their patients. And, that’s not really healthcare. That may be medical care. That’s not healthcare.

Stillman: Wow, 18 seconds. That’s an interesting statistic. Certainly if you want to have a competitive edge as a physician, let your patients talk, and listen. That’s easy.

Benner: They don’t have time. And, you know when people talk, and I know this as an attorney, too, you’ll get a lot of superfluous information. And, you’re trying to dig through it just for what’s important. You want the bullet point. But, that’s not an effective way to get the information a physician needs to effectively treat a patient, right?

In our next post, you’ll hear more of our interview with Kathleen Benner of Hospital Companions and Empowering Pages. Subscribe to the Best Competitor Blog to read stimulating ideas for improving the American healthcare system and ways hospitals, systems, large medical groups and healthcare product manufacturers can better compete in today’s marketplace. We welcome your suggestions for future interview subjects or topics. Simply leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

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