I’ve written and spoken millions of words to readers and my audiences over the past 26 years. Perhaps none as personal, or potentially important to some people as today’s.
This won’t be about sales, specifically, but it will involve using much of what we do in sales, and it applies to anyone, in sales or not.
My mother, Rita Sobczak, 84, passed away unexpectedly Monday. Her health took an amazingly rapid decline over the past eight weeks. She went from a person who acted, looked, and felt like someone in their low 60’s to almost unable to care for herself. Up until two months ago she still volunteered regularly at a retirement community, and worked part-time in my office. For years she has inserted and mailed the monthly newsletter many of you have received.
As the only child of my only remaining parent, when her health took a sudden dip, I of course became involved in her health care dealings. Or, I should say, the lack and mismangement of.
I fortunately never had the necessity in the past to immerse myself in ongoing, fairly complex medical situations. When I did over the past few months, I was shocked, saddened, and angered by what was happening. I formerly looked at healthcare kind of like something else I knew little about and am slightly intimidated by: taking a car to a mechanic. I just assumed that you went in with a problem, and they fixed it. I was wrong.
As I became more involved, I saw a gross lack of communication between doctors, and also, almost unbelieveably, amongst staff in the same office and on the same hospital floor. I saw mistakes that could and should be prevented.
We experienced at times, cold, insensitive staff; I’ve seen better service from the teenager clerk at the convenience store.
Overall, I saw a system that, although is a business, is certainly not run like one. I guess perhaps you don’t need to when you can charge what you want, run people through like cattle, and not have accountability. Thinking about it, I can’t even really call it a "system," since that would require entities all working together.
And, arguably, we experienced negligence. In fact, a close friend and ex-CEO of a major health organization told me I might have grounds for potential legal action, as did an attorney that specializes in such things. However, I decided not to pursue that, since money is not what I’m after, any proceedings would be drawn out and exhausting, and it certainly would not bring my mother back.
Instead, I decided to use my unique forum to communicate with you, my over 56,000 subscribers, and hopefully hundreds of thousands of others. What I have to say might just prevent for you some of the things we went through. Some of you may already be aware of what I’m going to say, but for others, well, you might be as surprised as I was.
-First, I can’t stress this enough: TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR OWN HEALTHCARE. Or, do it for those you have responsibility for, especially the elderly. Do not believe that when you enter the "system" you will be placed on a conveyor belt with no worries on your part, reactively coming out all fixed on the other end. Oh, you’ll be on the conveyor belt alright–often a broken and inefficient one.
-Be sure to do your "pre-call planning" before every visit or call. Question everyone. Demand clear answers. As I’ve discussed with sales situations, do not accept "fuzzy phrases" such as "we’ll go from there," "we’ll take a look at that at some point," "there might be some other things we’ll probably need to look at," and other obtuse language. Do not be afraid to say, "What does that mean, exactly?" There are dumb questions in sales. There are NO dumb questions when a life is involved. Be a pain-in-the-ass. I was at times, because that’s what was required to get action.
-When multiple doctors, clinics, and testing facilities are involved, ask WHO is responsible for communicating the information to each other, WHEN it will be communicated, and WHAT will happen to it. This is one area that especially astounded me with the lack of communication between entities. Upon release from a hospital stay, one doctor ordered an outpatient procedure be done within a couple of days. Well, those instructions never left the paper it was written on until I uncovered it almost a week later. Overall, I was shocked that there was not a "point person" to take control and coordinate things. I mean, for gosh sakes, most businesses have account managers who are responsible for every detail of a particular customer. Why does healthcare not have this for patients? Or, should that be the primary-care physician’s job? Just wondering.
-Just like in sales, always demand to know the "next step." After a procedure, visit, test, or whatever, ask WHAT will happen next, and WHEN. If it seems like too long in the future, ask WHY. You must convey a sense of urgency since they always won’t. My mother could have attested to that–if she had the chance. I finally received a call back from a doctor’s office after I had called twice asking about the lab results from a procedure performed one WEEK earlier. The call came minutes after the paramedics pronounced her dead. And something was found in those results. A bit late.
-If you do not like the answers or treatment received, get another opinion. Find another doctor. You are the customer.
According to Janet Lynn Mitchell, author of "How to Manage Your Health Care, "Medical mistakes kill between 44,000 to 98,000 hospitalized Americans each year. Thousands more are injured causing permanent disabilities, many not even knowing their doctors are at fault." Scary stuff.
Finally, this is not meant to be an indictment of every health care professional and organization. After all, we are dealing with humans performing jobs. I have to think most of them got into their profession because they care about helping people. I’ve always said that nursing (along with teaching) is one of my most admired and respected professions in the world. And there were some wonderful, brilliant, caring, on-top-of-it people we ran into along the way, and my thanks go out to those individuals.
But what I now know, and will be an advocate for is that your healthcare, or that of someone close to you, is not something that anyone else will care about as much as you. To maximize your chance for success, treat it like you would any other area of life in regards to getting the result you want: do not rely on others to do it for you. Take responsibility, and take action.