3 Ways to Properly Frame a Mystery Shopping Engagement

When starting campaigns for our clients one of the most asked questions is, “Do we let people know they are being audited?”

It’s a good question.   And we say “yes,” that those being audited should know about the process and its desired outcomes. Why?

Here is why:

  1. This is not a spying mission. While  maintaining secrecy in certain instances has its advantages, it’s more important to inform the members in your organization about the mystery shopping process and its goals. The more your organization is included in the process, the more they will understand the value of the patients/customer’s point of view.
  2. Data gathered should be used as a mirror/snapshot of your organization. When we report to a client at the end of an engagement, we use both a high-tech dashboard with all information in easily readable forms as well as verbatim quotes from the interactions.   This data provides a clear understanding of your patient’s experience and your organization’s performance.
  3. Data gathered should not be used in a punitive manner. When beginning a mystery shopping campaign it’s best to reassure your staff that these audits are  designed to improve performance across the board and discover your organization’s strengths and weaknesses.   The message should be “we are all in this together.”

If you include your organization in the process and properly frame the issue as described above, starting a mystery shopping campaign will be welcome with open arms.

Always Look Up – The Issues at the V.A.

Always Look Up

“The V.A. isn’t a place where you speak out,” Dr. Stout said in an interview. – NYT , V.A. Punished Critics on Staff, Doctors Assert- 6/16

When problems are endemic throughout your organization and you can’t figure out why, look in the mirror.

Employees, whether they are doctors or retail workers, rarely act out their own.  It’s almost always one of 3 reasons:

  1. The formal culture tells them to act this way. Example:  My job description says “Make false appointments”.
  2. The informal culture tells them to act this way: Example:  My job description says to make timely appointments but my boss tells me to make false ones.
  3. The employee is incentivized to act this way: Example 1: My job description says to make timely appointments but my boss tell me to make false ones or I’ll be fired and lose my job (A combination of 2 & 3).

Whatever the reason, the culture and actions of an organization are a direct reflection of leadership’s process, systems and personalities.

The issues affecting the V.A. are clearly not new and won’t be easily solved.  Leadership needs to acknowledge these mistakes, bring in outside help to call attention to all stakeholders both internal and external, and create a plan to change their current systems and processes.  They need to be open and honest with themselves, the public and their patients. Our war veterans.




What’s New is Old

As Verify HealthCare comes to fruition we look back at where we came from to understand where we’ve been and where we want to go.  I wrote this piece in 2011 for Live Simulation Solutions and realize the words written then are just as prescient today.  With the Affordable Care Act in place, it seems that healthcare has become more accessible to more segments of the population.   Unfortunately, quality health care is far from universal and the care quality can range from excellent to just sad.  We need only look at the current state of the VA hospitals across the nation to understand  how certain segments of the population have become neglected and underserved.   Article is in italics.

“Effective communication between doctor and patient is a central clinical function that cannot be delegated. Most of the essential diagnostic information arises from the interview, and the physician’s interpersonal health outcomes.’` Such skills, including active listening to patients’ concerns, are among the qualities of a physician most desired by patients.  Increasing public dissatisfaction with the medical skills also largely determine the patient’s satisfaction and compliance and positively influence profession is, in good part, related to deficiencies in clinical communication. Studies in many countries have confirmed that serious communication problems are common in clinical practice.”- The Toronto Consensus, 1991.

Just over twenty years ago, medical professionals in Canada delineated issues of doctor patient communication and what should be done to improve this dynamic condition. Not surprisingly the issues that challenged Canadian healthcare professionals 20 years ago are the same issues we are currently dealing with here in the United States.

The consensus talks about the value of doctors engaging patients, letting them speak uninterrupted and actively listening to their story. It says that patients that are heard report less anxiety and lower blood pressure. The statement also calls for more education for our healthcare professionals to improve on their communication skills. It seems that the Toronto Consensus could have been called “Issues in American Healthcare, 2011”

Twenty years ago I was a freshman in college listening to music on a CD player and depended on writing letters to communicate with friends at different schools.  The internet was just being born and who had money for long distance phone charges? While improvements in technology have made CDs and “snail mail” obsolete, the concept that improved doctor/ patient communication leads to better healthcare will never get old, and never go out of style. The creators of the Toronto Consensus knew this. Current research reaffirms this. We need to re-dedicate ourselves to making improved doctor-patient communication a priority.

If only we had thought of this 20 years ago!

For the reasons above I am reposting a link to the Toronto Consensus of 1991.  Unfortunately, it seems those same vital qualities they wrote about at the end of last century are still lacking today.  Our mission at Verify HealthCare is to expose the system’s ills and magnify its attributes.  This is our job.  We have the technology.  We can rebuild it.

Full text of Toronto Consensus @ www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1671610/pdf/bmj00155-0047.pdf

A 21st Century Platform Connects Old School Souls

As hospitals become hotels with patients instead of guests, it is natural to borrow tools and processes from the hospitality industry.  Mystery shopping and quality assurance have long been an integral part of successful, agile companies.  Verify International has been providing quality assurance via mystery shopping for over 25 years.  Their clients range from 5 star luxury hotels to hospitals, restaurants, and assisted living communities.  Over its long history, Verify International has built an outstanding reputation and track record in the mystery shopping community.  Longevity in the business also gives the company infrastructure, processes and systems that have been developed and refined especially for the mystery shopping methodology. Read more

The Digital Meeting

Monte Fulton, president and founder of Verify International, found himself responding to a post on Linked-In by president and founder of Live Simulation Solutions, Russell Brand.  After they exchanged some questions online, they arranged a phone meeting to discuss the in-person secret shopping Russell was doing with his company. Read more