–David Feinberg, MD, MBA, president of UCLA Health System in Los Angeles
Patient satisfaction is a buzzword in HM circles, as compensation is increasingly tied to performance in keeping inpatients happy. David Feinberg, MD, MBA, president of UCLA Health System in Los Angeles, could be called a guru of patient satisfaction.
Just don’t tell him that.
“I hope I’m not seen as ‘patient satisfaction,’” he says. “I hope I’m seen as ‘patient centeredness.’ And patient satisfaction is a key piece of patient centeredness.”
Dr. Feinberg, who assumed his current role UCLA Health System in 2011, is a national voice for pushing a patient-centric model of care delivery. To wit, he will be one of the keynote speakers at HM13 next month at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. His address is fittingly titled “Healing Humankind One Patient at a Time.”
The Hospitalist spoke to Dr. Feinberg about his message to hospitalists.
Question: What do you think is the evolution of patient centeredness, as that becomes more of a focus for others?
Answer: Patient centeredness to me is the true north, and I think everything else that we’ve done that isn’t patient-centered has been a distraction. … It’s why we signed up to get into healthcare. It’s what we should be doing today and tonight, and it should guide our future tomorrow. It would be like me saying to the restaurateur, “How important is the food?”
Q: Is it something that hasn’t always been done?
A: It’s pathetic. You’re totally right. We’ve lost our way.
Q: If it’s so common-sense, how did we lose our way?
A: It really became, to me, the coin of the realm in medicine was how much the doctor made, how great their reputation was. It even got to the point of: You were a good doctor if your waiting room was packed. … I keep saying the waiting room should be for the doctors. The patient shouldn’t have to wait. You should be back in the exam room and the doctor should be waiting to see you. So we’ve got to completely change the paradigm. … It’s really the patient who’s at the top of the pyramid. And I just think we’ve lost that completely.
Q: How does a hospitalist engage quickly to ensure that they’re trying to accomplish patient centeredness and manage outcomes properly?
A: Hospitalists have a unique opportunity there, because everybody remembers when they got put in the hospital. It is a big deal when you’re hospitalized. Your family is in a vulnerable state, everybody is in a heightened sense of alertness and focus. Think about how important those four days are around education, around myths and demystifying, around beliefs and disbelief.
Q: So what is the one thing you want hospitalists to take away from your address?
A: That they should join with all of us who want to heal humankind; that they are healers, above all.
Q: How do you translate “I want to be a healer” to the grind of daily work?
A: Well, I don’t think this is a grind. I think that when you’re in this healing profession, that you come here with a purpose. I think if we asked them to look at their personal statements of why they went into med school, every single one of them has something to do with, “I was sick as a kid, my grandmother got sick, I had had this doctor who was a role model, I like to help people, I was a volunteer and I met this patient.” Everyone says that. So this is different than trying to inspire the workers at Costco. These are people that, by definition, have gone and chosen this. We know they’re all smart. They could have all become investment bankers, they could have all become schoolteachers, but what they chose was to go into this field that’s about healing others, and that’s what I think we need to and what I would want them to do, is to get back in touch with themselves because I know it’s there. By definition, it’s there.
Q: Then why don’t more people just make that connection? What is the hurdle?
A: There are a lot of distractions. There are a lot of things coming your way. Worrying about your own life; doctors have lives at home. Worrying about the pressures of making a living. Some of this stuff is really, really hard. There are a million things going on. I believe, and I hope at UCLA, that we believe the strategy to make all of that stuff work is to get it right with the patient. And if you get it right with the patient, then all of that other stuff seems to fall into place and starts to make sense. The finances work out. The market share works out. The healthcare reform works out. I think it is the answer.
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.