Book Review  |   May 2007
Practicing Excellence: A Physician's Manual to Exceptional Health Care
Author Affiliations
  • Gilbert E. D'Alonzo, Jr, DO
    American Osteopathic Association
    Editor in Chief
Article Information
Book Review   |   May 2007
Practicing Excellence: A Physician's Manual to Exceptional Health Care
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, May 2007, Vol. 107, 178. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2007.107.5.178
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, May 2007, Vol. 107, 178. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2007.107.5.178
For 2 years, I was president of the medical staff at a hectic university hospital. I read several books to prepare me for the position, but one book in particular, Hardwiring Excellence: Purpose, Worthwhile Work, Making a Difference by Quint Studer, MS (Fire Starter Publishing; 2004), proved especially helpful as a guide for elevating the status of quality and distinction in healthcare organizations. As I became more deeply immersed in my new position, I discovered that though the more large-scale problems were often institutional, day-to-day challenges frequently concerned physicians and the ways they chose to practice medicine. Although Hardwiring Excellence addresses the wide-ranging aspects of hospital and staff management, it does not tackle the sometimes more intricate and personal issues related to physician performance. 
Practicing Excellence: A Physician's Manual to Exceptional Health Care by Stephen C. Beeson, MD, picks up where Hardwiring Excellence leaves off. Beeson, a family practice physician in California and a nationally recognized speaker, transfers Studer's roadmap to institutional excellence into the world of daily practice. The resulting manual teaches leaders how to create a high-performance workplace and simultaneously drive a healthcare organization's reputation of quality patient care to an even greater level. 
The goals presented in Practicing Excellence are as attainable for physicians in private practice as they are for those in the academic setting. Beeson challenges physicians, regardless of their clinical environment, to reach the manual's two main objectives: improve the quality of patient care and instill the desire for excellence in every clinician. 
Beeson steers his readers through a number of elements involved in creating and improving the quality of patient care. In the opening chapter of Practicing Excellence, Beeson defines creating a culture of excellence as “a relentless transformational process” in which the institution seeks “to become the best place to work, the best place to practice medicine, and the best place to receive care.” Practicing Excellence focuses on this final component by advising physicians of their roles in creating such an atmosphere through their routine contact with patients. Chapter 2, “The Case for Service,” explains why clinicians should be concerned about excellence, from increasing patient loyalty and improving their compliance with treatment regimens to decreasing the risk of malpractice lawsuits. 
The next few chapters are useful tools for physicians who want to increase the quality of their practices' patient care. For example, one part describes several situations that general practitioners are commonly confronted with, such as a patient who insists on receiving a diagnostic test that the physician has determined is medically unnecessary. Beeson outlines how physicians can respectfully decline such demands, preserve positive patient-physician interaction, and retain their reputation for delivering quality care. 
As I mentioned earlier, Practicing Excellence also focuses on how to promote the qualities of a culture of excellence in colleagues. The epitome of this philosophy resides in chapter 7, “Service Implementation to Physicians—A Stepwise Approach.” In this chapter, Beeson presents nine practical steps that clinicians can follow to accelerate the implementation of quality patient care in a collaborative work environment. Each step builds off of the previous one, beginning with fostering physician-leaders' commitment to excellence and ending with how these leaders can best handle physicians who are consistently poorly rated in patient satisfaction surveys. I agree whole-heartedly with each step in this chapter. 
In addition to the many valuable tips and guidelines this manual provides, such as how to develop and implement physician standards for excellence, the author's writing style is straightforward and easy to read. I found myself moving quickly through each chapter, thinking about how valuable the book is and how much I would have benefited from reading it during my training years. 
I enthusiastically recommend Practicing Excellence: A Physician's Manual to Exceptional Health Care to all my colleagues at Temple University Hospital, and “insist” that our physicians-in-training read—and, I hope, embrace—the principles in this manual. I can guarantee that any physician who loves taking care of patients will learn something important, practical, and useful from reading this manual. As Beeson points out, physicians can cure sometimes, but we can always make a meaningful difference with every patient, every time. ♦ 
 Stephen C. Beeson, MD. 201 pp, $28.00. ISBN 978-0-9749986-3-3. Gulf Breeze, Fla: Fire Starter Publishing; 2006.