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    This Member Spotlight episode of the podcast features Susan Childs, FACMPE, and founder of Evolution Healthcare Consulting.

    Susan has over 30 years of experience directly in healthcare and is a Board-Certified Fellow. She is an author, a recognized national presenter, and formerly served as the ACMPE Forum Rep and Advancement Chair with MGMA for 10 years. She discusses in this episode, her new book “The Emotionally Intelligent Physician Leader.”

    Editor’s note: The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

    Q: I read that you help medical practices establish conscious processes and strategies that encourage and promote self-awareness. Can you talk about that?

    A: A lot of emotional intelligence and self-awareness is just listening and really being aware of how you sound to everybody else. A lot of people don't realize it, you think you're saying something one way. And also, when you're the boss, people take what you say very seriously; every single thing you say they take it as gospel, and they have to follow your rules. So if you go in, and you bark orders, or delegate, instead of saying, ‘How is your calendar looking?’ Do you have time to do this? It'd be great to help with spreadsheets.’ It's a very different approach.

    Q: You’ve just published a book on emotional intelligence. Why is this subject important in regard to healthcare?

    A: Every conversation you have, it's providing compassionate patient care. That's what we're all about, and (emotional intelligence) ties in with that. The physician and the patient have the most incredible relationship where they really have to listen to each other and create that. I mean, they call it a partnership, but it really is: for better outcomes, better compliance, everything. It's so important. And there's so much focus on the numbers, and they’re very important. Numbers are very important, but it's more than just the numbers.

    I was working with an urgent care group, and they said to me, ‘Well, what am I supposed to tell the board? Because I have to report to the board.’. I said, ‘Well, you won't tell them anything without any patients. What are you going to tell the patients? Because the patient should always be first.’. And if we surround ourselves with that, I think that's the most important thing. And my goal with this book, and everything I do when I work in offices, or do workshops or anything, is to make people feel better about where they are, and what they're doing. The term psychologically safe is very popular right now. And it's very true, we have to feel really good about where we are, we have to feel like our boss is 100%, behind us. And as a boss, we have to be 100% behind our people. It's really working together with respect, and understanding each person's role from janitor to CEO. That's what it's about.

    Q: Talk about nature vs. nurture as it relates to emotional intelligence. Are we born with it?

    A: People have it, they use it and don't realize it. In my workshops, I will ask, ‘When is a time that you used emotional intelligence and didn't even realize it?’ And usually, it's when you spoke with a difficult patient or doctor that's upset or a staff member that's upset, and you handled it and you both came to a good ending with that. Whether it was a positive or negative, you came to a resolution you both understood and you moved on. That's emotional intelligence. So again, you know, we all have this, it’s just honing in on the skills.

     And physicians are actually so into learning how to do the diagnoses and the studies and being competitive and getting their fellowship, where they want the residency - that emotional intelligence is often tuned out. They have to because they're just conscious training on other things, it's just a different focus. I remember one physician said to me, ‘I know how to give a diagnosis, but I don't know how to tell them that a loved one died.’ And that's so important because again, it's more than just the numbers. How did that person make you feel? If you convey that message with compassion, it's very different.

    Q: What are some ways that someone working in a medical practice setting can utilize emotional intelligence?

    A: When you go to the doctor, when you're sick, you don't want to be there. So when you walk in the door, already, you're not feeling well. And I don't know about you, but when I'm not feeling well, my guard is down and my patience is short. … But the front desk has to have emotional intelligence and empathy and know their patients so that when they come in the door, they can say ‘Hello, how can I help you?’. And when they ask for money or have to tell them that the doctor might be a little late, that's emotional intelligence. Every interaction, every step of care, every level of care, you have to deal with that. And patients look for that. … 40% of your patients now have high deductibles, every single conversation counts. That relationship is really different, and knowing where that patient is coming from is very important.

    Q: That brings up a great point: doctors and nurses and front desk staff may see thousands of patients a year, but a patient might only come in for a single appointment a year. That appointment leaves a lasting impression, how can emotional intelligence help make it a good one?

    A: You're exactly right. … There was a rheumatologist I was working with, and (like) you were just saying, he's doing something a million times a day and I say, ‘I may be your millionth patient, but you're my first rheumatologist.’ I used to work with Dr. Jan Patterson and she would walk into the room to every single patient and say, ‘Here you are,’ like she was looking for them all day. And you became the center of her universe, and that's the way it should be.

    Q: You wrote that you intended to write a conclusion to this book that’s highly engaging, but you realized there is no conclusion to using emotional intelligence in a medical practice. What did you mean by that?

    A: I really thought I'm going to make a really heavy conclusion and make people really feel it and say something impactful. But then I realized there is no conclusion because healthcare is continual - it goes on, people will always be sick, and they will always need the help. What I ended up with was the example of my brother who passed away a year and a half ago and it was horrible. And I went to see him the last year; several times I visited him, and I'm really glad I did. And I can tell you that every single interaction we had with every single caregiver and every single nurse, doctor referrals, a billing person calling in, or ER visits, everything was so compassionate and so wonderful, and understanding, and that made it so much easier for my family to deal with it.


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    The MGMA Insights podcasts are produced by Daniel Williams, Camille Burch, and Rob Ketcham. 

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