Effectiveness and Efficiency: running a business like a well-oiled machine

Went to the VA clinic for a follow up on my physical on a brisk, clear morning.  The sun was rising and the place look rather empty. Walking in, coffee cup in hand, I received my first greeting of the day. This was quite a contrast from the last time I was here in which no one greeted me and I decided to greet people instead. She said “good morning” with a smile and I replied gracefully bowing slightly almost touching the tip of my hat like a courteous gentleman just that I was not wearing a  hat at all.  I arrived early at the doctor’s office, only two men where there at that time.  No one was at the desk; the room was quiet and dimmed. I sat there sipping my java and scanning the area. A sign on the clerk’s desk read: ask me 3 questions to better serve you.

1- What is the main problem?
2- What do I need to do?
3- Why is it important for me to do this?

Coffee was slowly kicking in my senses; my brain, slow due to lack of sleep these past days was being activated. My eyes were captivated by this sign instantly.  It was simple and to the point, being specific to focus on the real purpose of the patient’s visit at this clinic. A way to weed out irrelevant issues so to better use of the resources available for the patient’s benefit, very efficient. I thought this could also be applied in real life, in just about any situation that requires decision making and problem solving. Asking the right questions whenever we need an answer followed by an action plan. Just change the questions to fit the situation.

Another sign read: “be wise; always review your medication, keep it current and keep it with you. Be wise-be safe”. This one in particular refers to medication. It ask the patient to always review your medication to  avoid life threatening mistakes, keep it current for the same reason  and keep it with you so you have it when you needed. Like the other sign, this can also be practical to use as to enforce a plan or to a personal statement. It can be very effective.

I looked behind me and I saw a line of people just coming in for their appointments. There is a big red line outlining the desk area with stop signs warning people not to cross the line until called in. Since no one was at the desk yet nobody crossed that line. Everybody was making sort of a military chow line one behind the other, like dominoes lined up.   Discipline always stays with the soldier.

At exactly 30 min pass the hour, a nurse. Came out of the double doors and greeted everyone out loud with a “warm good morning”, which everybody responded back in agreement. Computers were turned on and like a fine production line, clerks started the registration process. Within 10 minutes, nurses were calling people in to be serviced. Got to love the military way of doing things. It runs like a well oiled machine.  It is effective and efficient. A top down management, procedure driven facility with the sole purpose of caring for the needs of veterans who gave their strength and courage for the country.
A clerk asked “may I help you” and one person said “Yes, do you have a million dollars?” everyone laugh. I felt a real difference on this visit and it came from the staff with an approach that I wish to see more in any business, particularly in health care. I was not cared like a number, but as a human being with needs and these needs was important for the staff. They’re in for business of course, like any other business, but caring for what is most important. I feel grateful and appreciative for the treatment and attention I receive and ever proud to have served my country.