Filling in the Blanks

I’m currently reading a very interesting book by Cleveland Clinic’s Customer Experience Officer James Merlino, MD titled, “Service Fanatics:  How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way”.  In the book, Dr. Merlino discusses the different aspects of providing a quality experience for the clinic’s patients.  One section that I found particularly interesting was the reality that when patients lack information, they tend to fill in the blanks.

Dr. Merlino talks about how a patient that has been admitted to a hospital most likely has all day to lay there and think almost exclusively about their condition and the illness or injury that ails them.  Their condition is likely the “big thing” on their mind, causing them to think about how it may affect their future, what could go wrong, or a host of other concerns.

As a result, patients are eager for information from doctors and other care givers about their condition and in the absence of information from their caregivers, patients start to fill in the blanks for themselves.  If the patient had a test that the doctor ordered, and they haven’t received the results from their doctor shortly thereafter, they may start to wonder whether the doctor has received the results or whether the results showed something bad that the doctor isn’t telling them or a whole host of other, usually negative, scenarios.

This got me thinking, although I’m not a doctor, have I ever caused someone to fill in the blanks because they were waiting for a response from me regarding a topic that was extremely urgent or important to them?  I’m sure I have.  I’m also reminded that what may seem normal, routine, or of low priority to one person may be totally new uncharted and even scary territory for someone else.

As we’re going through life and setting our priorities at work, home, and in our communities, let’s be aware of those we’re interacting with and scenarios they’re facing.  If they’re facing something critical and need information from us, let’s provide it quickly.  If we can’t provide it quickly, let’s at least keep people informed on our progress, so they’re not left to fill in the blanks.

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