I thought doctors were supposed to be smart people. The more I encounter this population in the medical community, the more I see that they bring a lot of problems on themselves, including malpractice. Strong statement? You bet; but I’ve been seeing a lot to support this claim. I have several family members who are managing the various diseases that come along with aging including a family member with a cancer diagnosis. She is in the process of shopping for the right surgeon. She is knee deep in the healthcare system and like anyone else who has found themselves in this position, is struggling to make sense of the terrain. The one person a patient looks to for support and direction is their physician. This is especially true when they are dealing with life threatening issues. Things like communication, patience, compassion, and understanding become extremely important along with the doctor’s years of experience in their area of specialty.
On a recent visit to a surgeon’s office our family encountered some interesting behavior on the part of the physician.
- He spoke too rapidly. He even knew he was doing this because he asked us to stop him if he was going too fast for us.
- He reached for and checked his beeper twice during the meeting with my family minimizing the importance of our situation.
- Despite the fact that it took over a week to get lab results back, he was unapologetic citing the recent holiday as the excuse for the delay.
- He required that the patient call for the results of her biopsy rather than scheduling her for an appointment in the office. This took away the patient’s ability to ask questions that immediately come to mind when they are given a life threatening diagnosis – like “Am I going to die from this?”
- His staff was surly and dispassionate despite the fact that they knew they were dealing with a patient who had just been diagnosed with cancer.
Is it any wonder that this surgeon was not chosen as my family member’s surgeon?
Here are some of the things this type of behavior invites into a medical practice:
- Loss of current business
- Loss of future business because of poor word-of-mouth advertising in the community where many people ask friends and neighbors for doctor referrals
- The establishment of an adversarial rather than a cooperative relationship with the patient, doctor, and their staff
- Poor patient outcomes due to confusion, misunderstanding, and lack of information
- Possible malpractice suits
No matter what industry you’re in, the cornerstones of any solid customer service program – communication, compassion, patience, and understanding are critical. This is especially true in the health care environment. As consumers we know this to be true not only on the macro level of understanding the intentions of our elected officials to revamp our healthcare system, but also on the micro level of our doctor’s offices.
Hmmmm…let me see. If I were a physician I would prescribe taking two doses of compassion…and call me in the morning.