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Does a Rundown Office Predict a Bad Patient Experience?

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Old office front desk waiting areaLet’s call this an informal Patient Experience survey—or a real-world test of “first impressions.” The thing is, this is something that actually happened to me recently. Please let me know what you would have done in my place.

Having waited a couple weeks to get an appointment I was scheduled to see a doctor that I had not seen previously. I was surprised to find the physical office was old and run-down. The chairs, for example, were clearly tired and worn, and my first impression was bad. Should I stay or go?

In just a bit, I’ll tell you the rest of the story. But this was the start of an interesting patient experience moment. Later, I took the opportunity to put the stay-or-go question to some friends and colleagues via Facebook. Here’s how I framed the question and a few of their reactions.

If you go to a doctor’s appointment and the medical office looks old and run-down, do you stay and go through with the appointment? Or do you leave? If it’s an appointment you need and have waited for, does that change your decision? What say you?

  • “Walk out. I did that recently, and it was “Yuck!” I called my insurance and changed groups.”
  • “No excuse not to modernize nowadays. Update and clean up, people.”
  • “Old and run-down is OK; dirty is a deal breaker. I had a doc once in a fancy high-tech looking office. Her practice was awful all around so I try not to get too wrapped up in office aesthetics either way. Good doctor out weighs office appeal any day.”
  • “It depends. I wouldn’t leave, but I would be worried and I may not return.”
  • “Leave.”
  • “I would stay…if it’s in a decent location.”
  • “Never judge a book by its cover. My daughter’s pediatrician (office) is outdated, but we love the care the staff.”
  • “I went to a (kidney) specialist. His nurse was about 80 years old and walked bent over. She gave me a specimen cup—that had been washed and reused. Yuk! That was my last visit there.”

I responded: Thanks! The office wasn’t dirty, just outdated, so I stayed. The doctor was very thorough and caring. I doubt that I’ll return, though.

As a lesson in healthcare marketing, competition is fierce and it’s a challenge to bring new patients into the practice. An old, tired and run-down facility is a negative first impression. For me, it set the stage for a poor patient experience. A kind and caring doctor couldn’t overcome the worn and sadly dated image. And, among this unscientific survey of FB friends, this practice was only generating one-time and never-to-return new patients.

Tell us your reaction? If this were your experience, would you leave, stay, or keep the appointment and change doctors? What would you do? What would you tell the practice?

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