At a recent seminar, some of our attendees joined us in a rant about the pitiful customer service endemic at so many hospitals and practices. Some examples:
1. One surgeon shared a story about the time he "went home for Christmas," but ended up accompanying his very ill and nervous mother to the ER. A staffer called out her name across the room while twirling a clipboard nonchalantly on his finger. Next, the same staffer became noticeably impatient while "mum" slowly gathered her things.
2. An administrator bemoaned her visit to her own OB/GYN, and had to wait while the receptionist giggled on a long personal call.
3. I personally had to ask a lab tech to disinfect and wipe blood off the phlebotomy chair, before I would allow her to draw some of my own.
Everyone has stories like these.
Beyond the HIPAA violations, safety hazards and insulting behavior, these kinds of incidents illustrate an alarming indifference to patients who are after all, customers.
However, you can't just blame "bad employees." Even well-meaning doctors and administrators often design their internal processes around what is efficient for the institution, as opposed to what is right for the patient. For example, think of all those complicated phone trees where, "Sorry, zero is not an option."
Another example, my mother scheduled an early morning appointment with her cardiologist. He strolled in an hour late to his own office, and then had no idea why she was there (she had spent the weekend at the hospital). He actually admitted that he lets patients stack up so that HE doesn't ever have to wait.
This kind of indifference is amazing, and almost impossible to find in any other industry. I told my mother we should leave after the twenty minute mark, but she is old school and simply wouldn't go. (But she DOES tell her friends about the incident.)
Here's the news flash: younger upscale patients - the ones you say you want - don't just "quietly suck it up." Instead, they increasingly rebel. These patients are not intimidated, recognize that they are in fact a customer, and demand to be treated with respect and dignity.
So take some time to look at your own systems to find out which ones are "patient friendly," and which ones treat patients like cogs on an assembly line designed for optimal organizational efficiency.
Or if you prefer, do nothing. Life will be so much easier when those pesky patients stop "bothering you."