This article has been a long time coming.
As a professional in the sales and service of all kinds of widgets during my career, I can tell you that success is directly related to how well you cultivate relationships.
For years I've been on the brink of offering my extensive CRM experience to doctor's offices, hospitals and other medical clinics. I guess instead of Customer Relationship Management, we'd call it PRM: Patient Relationship Management. As a new friend, Gail, told me recently -my dissatisfaction with these institutions is because the art of care is not effectively practiced.
I happily knowing having a few doctors, nurses and medical center personnel who are sterling examples of the best this profession has to offer. With them I get poked, prodded, squeezed, shot, invaded by other means, and all the while I feel so grateful for their bedside manner that in the end, the most I have to say is “thank you.”
This article is about the others. This article is for those who leave messages on an individual's answering machine “your test results came back and you have AIDS.” Or who call you mid-week to say the results of a recent Pap smear show that all is normal but on Friday of the same week they call to report an abnormality and advise you to see your gynecologist immediately. As though Friday's are like any other day of the week and doctors are just sitting around waiting for your urgent appointment need.
In fact, the maxim “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” could not be more fitting than when trying to navigate the sea of medical terminology and appearance indifference to common courty. Physician's think nothing of having their appointments booked so close between patients that the normal wait time for an appointment is 90 minutes or more. Sure, I can think of nothing I'd rather do with my time than sit in a crowded waiting room with other exotic people wondering which of them is getting to see your doctor before you. Think of this as the waiting room blues. How might we know this? The sign in sheet. Right there for God & everyone to see is who you are, when you arrived, the time of your appointment and which doctor you are visiting. When you arrive on time for a 3:30 appointment and there are 6 other names ahead of you that have not been scratched out, highlighted through, etc., you know you're in for the long haul. So keep on being polite, unassuming, and considerate. You'll wait forever. Raise hell and they want to move you away from the others as swiftly as possible. Squeaky wheel, get it?
I imagine it's a lifesaver for medical professionals to establish a certain detachment from the patients they serve, a certain level of emotional self-preservation lest empathy do them in. But, a little less brusqueness, less clinical efficiency would be beneficial. Exhibiting a little more kindness and consideration for those who can not move as quickly or for those who struggle to answer questions that were previously answered for them by a spouse now gone. They do not need to see the cynical glances between front desk personnel-it is not helpful.
Being a primary caregiver for my Mom the last few years of her life was an eye opening experience for me. My Mom, like many women of her generation, deferred to my Dad for direction, for decisions. Dad no doubt paid all the bills, handled and understood insurance, and assumed responsibility for him & Mom in most matters. When he died in 2008, my Mom was pretty lost. Fortunately, she had 5 daughters who helped take over in areas she was incapable of handling and taught her how to do things she'd previously not known about.
What can be done? Physicians: make sure appointments are scheduled appropriately so an average wait is significantly pared down. Many doctor's offices have a policy that if a patient is a no-show they might be billed for an office visit but do patients have recourse if they are kept waiting for an inordinate amount of time? No. I know for some doctors, it's all about the money but I have to believe that the major got into healthcare because they really want to help others. Personnel at the front desk, why not advise patients if the doctor is running behind? I'm not suggesting that they will be excused to try again another day (inconvenient for all who work or have child or eldercare responsibilities) but at least to show consideration for the patient and help minimize the frustration invariably experienced in this situation. NEVER leave a voice message delivering devastating news. What medical professional believes a patient will benefit from the declaration that there is no hope for them? Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of many wonderful works including Love, Medicine & Miracles explains in Soul Prescription # 2 “I see people who die a few minutes after a doctor tells them there is no hope of a cure. and ï¬ nd joy in provoking the doctor wrong. Something within them is challenged and hopeful. Hope is the divine motivator. ” Why does not every employee in the medical profession understand this?
I received a call last night “reminding” me of an appointment I have next week. The thing is I did not make the appointment. So, I had to find the physician's office number, call them from work and inquire about who might have arranged this. It was scheduled by one or the other of my doctor's offices. Why did not I get a courtesy call giving me a heads up that they want me to see a specialist? Why did I have to make a call to ask what's going on when I am the one involved? Common courtesy, respect, consideration – I do not think this is too much to ask of people with what we place our trust.
Now, I know there are some disgruntled, impolite, inconsiderate – let's face it absolutely wretched individuals, which sole purpose on earth seems to be to make everyone around them as miserable as they are. I know this is a tough crowd. Perhaps interacting with this kind of person has eclipsed the compassion of many of those in the healing profession. Please do not let it. The rest of us need you at your best.