Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 | 2 a.m.
In a city where quality customer service and visitor experience run the economy, professionals at UNLV’s medical school said embracing the same principles for sick patients will determine which future physicians rise above the pack.
“The level of service you have to provide has to mimic level of service that hotels provide to their guests,” said Constantine George, a born-and-raised Las Vegas doctor who runs a medical concierge service on the Strip. “Once you get a customer and guest and you treat them correctly, they will come back to you over and over.”
George, owner of Epitomedical on 8859 W. Flamingo Road, was one of six health care professionals to speak during the two-hour panel last week to nearly 50 first-year medical school students. Other speakers included medical representatives from University Medical Center, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the M Resort.
Customer care for medical patients includes basic courtesy, like making eye contact, asking the patient how they’re doing and what they believe is wrong with them, George said. Above all, the medical professionals should show genuine sympathy and listening to patient concerns. He joked that only about 5 percent of patient commentary revolved around medical issues and that doctors often function as pseudo therapists for the other 95 percent of patient concerns.
But in Las Vegas, medical care providers must also go the extra mile to meet the standards of other industries’ high bar for customer service. For George, who has owned his own practice for nearly 15 years and also operates a concierge service to sick tourists on the Strip, that means offering tourists a courier service to deliver prescriptions to hotel rooms and daily phone calls checking in on the patient until the end of the patient’s Las Vegas vacation.
Balancing ethics and proper business practices with marketing and customer service was a frequent topic of discussion during the panel. George claimed that as business owners, doctors are free to operate how they wish within the law and guidelines set out by the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners. But illegal activity performed in favor of convenience and customer service, like waiving a copay or writing an unnecessary prescription, will eventually backfire, he said.
“Whether it’s a year from now or 10 years from now, you’re going to get caught,” George said.
That same mindset should be applied toward online ratings sites, like Yelp, said Kochy Tang, a family medicine physician whose office operates inside the M Resort. Tang argued some patients are going to be unhappy “no matter how well you provide them with service,” and the potential of a low Yelp rating shouldn’t stop a doctor from “doing what you know is right.”
Some students lamented what they called unfair expectations from negative reviewers on the online sites. They argued that medical professionals regularly experience tragedy and loss of patients who are friends. Reaction to such loss may temporarily affect medical professionals’ ability to provide strong customer service, potentially earning them a low online rating from their next patient.
Student Brandon Gaston, 22, said the panel opened his eyes to the importance of patient treatment. While many medical students are focused on passing tests and mastering the science behind medicine, Gaston said the social interaction aspect of the job often goes under emphasized.
“I was very unaware of the business side of medicine,” said Gaston, a Rancho High graduate. “I found the idea of treating a patient like a customer very interesting and important.”
Ditto for Danielle Arceo, a first-year student who returned to Las Vegas for medical school after earning her undergraduate degree at Pensacola Christian College in Florida. Arceo who hopes to work in pediatrics or psychiatry, said she appreciated the seminar’s “focus on relationships.”
“It resonates with me,” she said. “The emphasis on personal interactions is unique to UNLV.”