Doctors Offering Five-Star Customer Service at New Cancer Clinic

Posted By Mike Padgett

Feb. 10, 2010

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – When their doctors say those gritty words, “It’s cancer,” patients often see themselves heading down a one-way road. And it looks rough.

They suck in their breath. Their fingers, searching for anything to hold onto, turn into white-knuckled fists. Their courage is challenged. They think about hair loss. Nausea. Or worse.

Aware that a patient’s cancer diagnosis often is a ticket to a difficult journey, even with family support, two Scottsdale physicians are offering five-star features in their practice.

Drs. Andrew Buresh and Lesley Meng are settling into their new Desert Springs Cancer Care Center in north Scottsdale. Their philosophy includes customer service techniques that are the cornerstone of the hotel industry.

 

Drs. Andrew Buresh and Lesley Meng, to make their patients more comfortable during treatment, are making their new clinic more like a luxury home. Photo courtesy of Desert Springs Cancer Care

Buresh and Meng adopted the hospitality industry’s service techniques after meetings with executives at Four Seasons resorts, first in Hawaii and later in Scottsdale. The key to first-class customer service, Buresh and Meng say, is hiring skilled personnel who can make patients feel comfortable.

“We can teach people how to answer the phones properly, but we can’t teach people how to be nice or teach them what should be in their hearts,” Buresh says. “So when we picked our staff, that was what we were going after, looking for customer service. We’re looking for skill as well, but also customer service.”

Smiles, eye contact and compassion are key attributes. So are remembering the names of the patients and their families, even their preferences of coffee from the clinic’s exclusive coffee menu, says Patricia Wuensche, the office administrator.

“Always, always greet the patient,” Wuensche says. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what your position is, how many times you’ve see that patient, you give them eye contact, say hello, how’s your day. Give them some kind of acknowledgment every single time you see them.”

Hospitality industry secrets

Besides meeting with Four Seasons executives, Buresh read the book, “Four Seasons: The Business Philosophy,” by Isadore Sharp, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

Desert Springs is at 21803 N. Scottsdale Road. Enter the front door – outside of which you are asked to leave your fear – and you’ll find a 5,000-square-foot medical facility that looks like anything but. A sitting area is a coffee aficionado’s dream, with many selections of coffee. Cancer patients undergoing treatment sit in leather-covered reclining loungers where they can read, listen to music, even knit.

“We want the patients to feel comfortable when they walk through the door,” Meng says. “When they come here, they come here with a lot of anxiety. They are scared to death. They don’t know what it means to have cancer.”

The offices lack the sterile feel, smell or look of a typical medical office. Wood office doors are replaced by sliding glass doors.

Other features include a pharmacy, manicure and pedicure services, facials, massages, yoga classes, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment and advice for physical therapy and nutrition.

Physicians and staff avoid wearing stethoscopes and white lab coats. Business casual is required. So are smiles and attentiveness. The ambiance is very user-friendly.

Instead of arrow straight, the corridors are undulating, like the waves of an ocean. The color scheme of the walls and furniture is earth-tone greens, blues, browns and corals.

The offices were built and fitted with “green” construction materials and furniture. Lights are automated to turn off when the rooms are empty.

“We want it to be more like a home environment, not like a medical clinic,” Meng says.

But of all the features offered by Desert Springs, the number one priority – after medical expertise – is an attentive, professional and compassionate staff, with emphasis on compassion, Meng says.

“We hired our staff with extra-friendly skills,” she says. “These people were just born to be people pleasers.”

Wuensche adds that the doctors give their cell phone numbers to their patients so the patients can call them any time of day or night.

Fear can be worse than treatment

Buresh says apprehension of cancer treatment sometimes creates more anguish than the treatment itself.

“Most patients come back and say, ‘Gee, this is not as bad as I thought it was going to be,” he says.

Hair loss depends on the type of chemotherapy used. “It’s variable, from one patient to another. Nausea also is variable, depending on the drug. While nausea may not always be reduced or eliminated completely, we are able to reduce its impact quite a bit these days,” Buresh says.

“Everyone’s different,” he continues. “I’ve had 85-year-olds sail through a combination of chemotherapy for lymphoma, and I’ve had 25-year-old girls with breast cancer who have nothing but trouble. There’s no way to predict.”

Buresh and Meng say the rate of cancer, already affecting about a third of the U.S. population, could increase because people are living longer.

Meng says the risk of contracting cancer can be reduced by limiting consumption of alcohol and foods treated with pesticides. Physical exercise, such as 30-minute workouts three times a week, also can reduce cancer risks.

One of the office staff is Cheryl Freeman, a cancer survivor. She was 40 when a routine blood test for her back surgery a few years ago looked suspicious. Further tests confirmed she had leukemia. She says her initial apprehension, treatment and recovery give her a clearer perspective in helping cancer patients.

“I’m sure everyone knows someone with cancer, unfortunately,” Freeman says. “I feel very, very, very lucky.

Desert Springs opened in December. Buresh, Meng and their staff will host an open house and fund-raising event Feb. 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. Proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Society.

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Feb 10th, 2010

One Comment to 'Doctors Offering Five-Star Customer Service at New Cancer Clinic'

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  1. Thanks so much to Mike for helping get the word out about this very special project. They are an HMA client, and we are so proud to be helping launch something so vital and needed in the Valley.

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