Tag Archives: customrs

Patients are Customers, too

The first meeting I had with a renowned retinal surgeon I’ll call “Sandy” (because that was his name; sadly this great doctor passed away much too early in life) he walked in, tossed a trade publication on the table between us and said, “They have done research that shows that patients prefer good bedside manner to doctors who are clinically superior. You can have better grades, conduct all kinds of studies, teach at universities, preside in symposiums, write professional articles, and do thousands of surgeries with great outcomes, but all patients want you to hold their hands and be nice.” He paused and gazed over his glasses at me for a moment before adding, “I am so screwed.”

I laughed and told him I could teach him how to be nice.

On another occasion Sandy ranted about a patient who had praised his chiropractor. “Can you believe this guy? He had open heart surgery. His cardiologist went to medical school for 10 or more years and did all these internships, fellowships and SAVED HIS LIFE. And all he can do is tell me how great his chiropractor is.”

I had an answer for that, too.  “His chiropractor cares about him,” I said.

Here’s a thought, my MD friends and clients. Treat your patients as if they were customers. Because they are.

With their insurances, co-pays and out-of-pocket pays, they can go to doctors who don’t make them wait for 50 minutes in your waiting rooms, deal with rude staff and then get five minutes of your time.

I understand there is move afoot to reimburse doctors for “cognitive” time and I applaud that. Doctors SHOULD be reimbursed for listening to their patients. There’s all kinds of important information hidden in the complaints patients are rambling off and insurance companies should have paid for that – all along.

My chiropractors have always made me feel like I’m the Only Patient They Have. They care about the weirdest symptom that even I don’t think is related. They remember things from visit to visit. There are rarely long wait times. And if there is, it’s unusual and there are explanations and APOLOGIES.

My current chiropractor, Dr. Laurie Woloshen (Tampa), even insists on doing regular checkups. She caught high blood pressure readings and refused to let me leave her office. I thought her assistant was going to sit on me until I explained I had another appointment that day with my MD and promised to tell her all about the high BP readings (and subsequently got on medication.)

Dr. Woloshen wants a current list of all my medications—and unlike my other doctors’ offices–she actually keeps it straight.

When I had to get a brain MRI recently, I mentioned to her that I thought I had one a few years ago. She (not the MRI-ordering MD) told me to take the old films so the radiologist would have a benchmark). Dr. Woloshen called me with MRI results within seconds of her office receiving them. Turns out things are good (thought my current clients would be happy to know there’s no brain damage – no need to google “PR consultant, folks…) except there are some indications of that blood pressure incident a few years ago. Did I mention that Dr. Woloshen, the chiropractor-not-the-MD detected that blood pressure problem? (Disclaimer – Dr. Woloshen was a premed student and may know more than the average chiro.)

By the way, The MRI-ordering MD’s office never called to say they even had the results. I had to call to make an appointment for the reading and wait 45 minutes to hear what I already knew.

So, MDs – try treating the patients more like they’re paying customers who can go somewhere else. It’s like Southwest Airlines. They always say they know you have other options when you fly. Patients have other options and pretty soon they’re going to figure it out.

Before you think I hate MDs and am alternative-medicine-only, I don’t and I’m not. I do all the MD rounds. Also my parent’s best friends were doctors–brain surgeons and regular surgeons. I grew up with Dr. Dormon dispensing penicillin shots at our house and Dr. Taxdal telling stories of his brain surgery saves. My first job was working during high school at the Bond Clinic in Winter Haven, Florida for Dr. Dormon’s staff.

I know how hard you work going through medical school and how much money it costs and how impossibly difficult the hours are. And then, managed care came along and squeezed you financially – and unfairly.

Retina Associates of Florida is a long-time client and a highly respected research and treatment center that I would use if God-forbid I had a retina problem.

There are great MDs in the world and I work with a lot of them professionally. I empathize with those who have to sell practices just to survive. I think that’s terrible.

But you people running those doctor practices better get with the program or patients will go to another practice. The Affordable Care Act is empowering patient choice. And most people chose caring and no one wants to wait. And nobody likes rude staff.