If people were vehicles, my grandfather would be a tank. Grandpa spent fifty years serving his country and doing back-breaking work in a manufacturing plant. On the weekends he takes long bike trips, volunteers in his community, and takes my grandmother dancing. Grandpa gives 100% in all he does, whether it’s work or play. Nothing seems to slow him down.

That is, until his knee pain got too bad. Grandpa quickly realized he would need knee replacement surgery if he wanted to regain the active life he loves. I spoke with my grandfather and several other people who had experienced knee or hip replacement. Here are some of their suggestions for improving patient satisfaction.

People who visit an orthopedic surgeon are eager to get back in action. They look for an orthopedic surgeon with excellent clinical and surgical skills. Patients want an orthopedic surgeon who is experienced, stays on top of the latest medical research, and utilizes leading-edge technology.

Most people are not equipped to measure an orthopedic surgeon’s surgical expertise. What they can tell is if the surgeon cares about them. Tough as he is, my grandfather is one of the kindest and most respectful people I know. He expects the same kindness and respect from everyone he knows, including his physicians.

Orthopedic surgeons, like all physicians, are trained to be objective and analytical. However, it’s essential for physicians to show their human side to their patients. People are scared when they have surgery. Although they are excited about regaining their mobility, a part of them is terrified by the hospital experience. Surgeons can dispel a lot of a patient’s fears through their kindness, compassion, and empathy.

So what does empathy look like? Well, it starts with orthopedic surgeons treating their patients like they would treat a friend. Patients today often research their medical problems and possible solutions before going to the doctor, so they can probably be a little challenging. It’s important for surgeons not to talk down to their patients, but accept each patient as the captain of his or her own health care team. Patients want surgeons who provide them with all their options and give them information each step of the way.

At the hospital before and after a surgery, patients appreciate it when everyone they meet –from the receptionists, to the nurses, to the people who draw blood, or clean their room – are friendly and helpful. Smiling faces go a long way. All patients appreciate it when doctors and nurses talk with him and with each other. Coordinating care and communication is key.

It’s especially important for orthopedic surgeons to listen to patients. In every step of the process, patients want to feel that they matter as human beings to the surgeon who they have entrusted with their health and mobility. Good orthopedic surgeons take time to get to know each patient. I know my grandfather appreciates it when his orthopedic surgeon asks his bike trips. People feel they will have a better surgical outcome if their orthopedic surgeon sees them as a human being, not just as a patient.

You hear more talk these days about health care as a business. More medical professionals try to provide outstanding “customer service” like you would find at a luxury hotel. While patients appreciate above and beyond service, there is something very special about a medical experience that you will never find in a hotel or retail experience.

A patient’s relationship with his or her physician is a healing and therapeutic relationship. It is a relationship like no other. It is very personal and based on a higher level of trust than you will find outside of our closest family and friends.

Thank you, Dr. Karkare! The more I learn about what you do, the more respect and appreciation I have for your profession. The expectations of your patients are high. We expect you to have outstanding clinical and surgical expertise. We expect you to keep up on innovative research and technologies. Most importantly, we count on you to cultivate a caring, trusting relationship with us, so we feel comfortable placing the care of ourselves or those we love, in your capable hands. Thank you for all you do!

2016 Scholarship Finalist

Grant K

Hutchinson, Minnesota

The final question on the application was an essay question.

The essay question was:

How can orthopedic surgeons doing hip and knee replacement surgery improve patient satisfaction?

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