You Have 14 Minutes

Maybe I shouldn’t write this. It’s probably going to cause me a lot of problems and a lot of protest, but here goes.

A close friend of ours is a palliative care nurse. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with palliative care, these nurses care for patients which typically pass within 6 months. A palliative care nurse must be remarkably sensitive, caring, skilled and loving and they also must know that the persons in their care are eventually going to pass. These nurses must be tougher than hell while still armed with all the previously mentioned talent. These nurses are remarkable people that are remarkably gifted and up to the task.

Our friend works for a facility within a large healthcare group. One of many hospitals in the group, which is enduring a financial crisis. So, in enduring the financial strain, or maybe in the spirit of trying to improve financial performance, administrators are furiously trying to pin down ways of achieving more effective efficiencies.

Remarkably, our friend has learned that the physicians in her area have been told that when the time comes to inform people of the death or impending loss of loved ones, they need to do so in 14 minutes.

14 Minutes.

I cannot imagine that performing this task in 14 minutes is going to improve the financial health of the hospital or the emotional health of the family members. I can imagine how these mandates happen, and it is not restricted to healthcare. It is the corporate assembly line. They get on it and they can’t get off. It is consecutive monthly improved earnings, improved stock price, earnings per share, board satisfaction, making budget, hitting forecast, and all the other corporate elements that they think are the most important so they can speak in the lingo of the day.

And all this gets answered, including the financial mess they are in, if there is comprehensive customer service excellence in the hospital business or any other business. Like a lot of hospitals have done successfully. Like the time I went to the Mayo clinic with a condition from a surgery I had 18 years prior, and was treated as if I was the only patient in the hospital. I am not just speaking of the nurses and physicians I visited, I am talking about the host in the coffee shop and the hotel and the receptionist and the scheduler and every single person that I touched in my five days there. It can be done. But you must have a higher cause—one that will move all those within your leadership to a higher ground and mission than they can do in 14 minutes. And THAT will move the stock price and earnings per share. Maybe not in consecutive quarters but in the long run and in a more steadfast fashion.

It is hard, and becoming harder, to understand why this is so elusive and harder for very talented people to see. We’ve gotten swept down the creek of thin-skinned behavior, misuse of technology and the disconnect.

What a fantastic opportunity to do things differently. To act like they do at the Mayo clinic. Regardless of what business you are in. They’ll take as much time with you as YOU think necessary not the time THEY think is necessary.

Even if it’s more than 14 minutes.

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  1. Dr. Arthur J. Puff says:

    The Mayo Clinic is indeed a unique place in medicine and I had the honor of spending some time there. I know of a medical leader who is now the chief medical officer for one of the largest health plans in california and he said, “I miss health care in Minnesota.” They live the mission at the Mayo Clinic.


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