So what do you do? The Health Services Commissioner and business storytelling that works

September 21, 2010

Last week I was driving between appointments  and listening to 774 ABC Melbourne.  Waleed Aly (filling in for Jon Faine) was co hosting conversation hour with Health Services Commissioner Beth Wilson.

Waleed Aly asked the question that was on everyone’s mind after he introduced Beth Wilson ‘Health Services Commissioner – you sound important but I don’t really know what you do?’

Beth Wilson explained her role through a few key sentences (which most people would do) but then she said ‘let me give you an example’ and launched straight into a story that said it all and was memorable.

Till I heard Beth Wilson on radio, I like a lot of people didn’t know Victoria had a health commissioner.  But now after listening to Beth and the story she told I not only understand what her office does, but will also remember it and probably repeat what I heard to a few people.

So the next time someone asks you that question ‘So what do you do?’ can you give them an example, tell them a story that helps them remember and understand what it is you do?

Read through the whole story below or listen to Beth herself through this link.  You can fast forward to about 38:16, on the time line in the podcast to listen to the story.

‘People who come to my office usually want three things – they want to know what went wrong and why and what happened to them doesn’t happen to some one else.  It’s that third aspiration that really gives us an opportunity to improve the quality of our health services by listening to people’s experiences and learning from them.

My job is to try and resolve complaints through my office through a process of mediation or conciliation. Can I give you an example?

We had a lady who was having headaches and her GP had tried a number of cures none of which was particularly successful for her.  The GP was trained in using acupuncture.  I mention he was trained because sometimes registered doctors don’t think they need training for complementary therapies when of course you do.  He took her down the back room, he explained very carefully to her what was going to happen and how long it would take, he put on lovely flute relaxation music.  Now this lady is in the back room wearing a white gown with all these needles dangling in her head and neck and the flute music runs out and she is concerned with picking the children up from school.  So she called out ‘Helllloooo’ and she got no response what so ever.  She waited a bit longer and by now the twilight is starting to descend very seriously outside the window, so she called out really loudly ‘HEELLOOOOO’  and still nothing. 

Very gingerly she got off the bed and tippy toed out into the clinic not sure if she was going to hurt herself or not and the clinic was utterly completely totally deserted.  Doctor’s gone home, no nurses, no receptionist, no cleaning person, she’s locked in and the phone is on the night switch.  Fortunately she was on the ground floor and she flagged down a stoical passer by who was really good.  He got the police, who got the doctor who lived a long way from the clinic.  The lady was supposed to have been discharged at 4:30 that afternoon but in fact she was released at 9:30 pm, so she was not happy.  Her complaint to me was to try and make sure the doctor never forgot another patient.  The doctor was fabulous, totally cooperative, apologetic, not afraid to say sorry.  He put in a bell and a buzzer and a stopwatch, an alarm clock and some flashing lights, some laser beams and there’s no way he will forget another patient and he gave her two free consultations. 

At the end of our processes she said ‘Beth I can see the funny side of this now and I’m really pleased that he is still my doctor because I really like him’.  That’s what we call a win win situation.’

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