I’ve been in the relationship business since I was sixteen. I waitressed for years, and I’d get better tips based on the relationships I’d built with my customers. I did very well as a waitress, but I didn’t treat my customers well for the tips. I did it for the interaction itself. My job was easier, more fun, and less stressful when I built a connection with the people I served. That carried into my legal career. I’ve been a medical malpractice defense lawyer for over 20 years, and I’ve developed friendships with my clients, and even my opponents, that have lasted as long. Those relationships are what make the stress of contentious litigation bearable, and at the same time they make me good at what I do. I care–deeply. I didn’t think much about how important those relationships were to the bottom line until I recently read a book called Return on Relationships, by Ted Rubin. It is a book about social media, and he talks about ROR (Return on Relationships) as the value inherent in loyalty, recommendations and sharing. Suddenly, my successes in waitressing and in the law made sense.
Years defending medical malpractice cases have taught me that medicine needs to be disrupted. The focus on paternalism over partnership, technology over humanity and businesses over relationships won’t work any longer. It’s time for everyone involved in the health care relationship-administrators, providers, caretakers, and patients-begin to focus on that relationship. They will see a return.
There’s all kinds of evidence that better health care relationships lead to better results. For example, a recent study showed a strong relationship between patient-physician communication and patient reported outcomes, the use of medications, and the use of healthcare resources. So there is a financial return on the relationship between doctors and patients. There is a similar return when doctors and staff have good relationships. When everyone in an operating room knows each other by name, the average number of complications and deaths dipped by 35 percent. Clearly, there is a financial incentive to cultivate and maximize relationships between all members of the healthcare team.
But there is an even greater incentive–the health of every member of the team. Good relationships are healthy. Good communication is healthy. Trust, loyalty, laughter, connection–all healthy. When it comes to health care relationships, the primary ROR is good health for everyone concerned. It’s just an added bonus that it also increases the bottom line.