I often write about when things go wrong in our office: patients who are upset, or those that upset us; when there are glitches in the system; and when we feel overwhelmed and pulled in a hundred different directions. And I suppose it is human nature to vent when things aren’t quite as we would hope, but I know that there are some things that we must be doing right in our office.
We don’t make patients wait for more than a few minutes. And if we are late by even 10 minutes we are apologetic. One of the most common complaints patients have about doctors is that they have to wait for them for hours. They feel disrespected, as if their time is not valuable. As a matter of fact, my friend (also a physician) went to her doctor’s office, waited in the exam room, in an examination gown, for over an hour and a half. I think that is unacceptable. If an office does not run on time, then there is something wrong with the schedule. Sure, things happen, emergencies come up causing delays, but many offices routinely run hours behind schedule. Why? They schedule patients at times that the doctor isn’t even in yet. They double and triple book. They schedule patients for slots that are too short for the complexity of their case.
We get to the office before the first patient is scheduled to arrive and prepare for our day. We do not double book. We allot enough time for vitals to be taken, the actual visit and writing prescriptions, lab requests, etc. If we have patients we know are time consuming, they get a double slot or they get scheduled at the end of the morning or afternoon so that the only ones who have to suffer are us, and not the next patients.
Our staff is personable — most of the time. I’m not sure how many times I’ve said in my posts that my staff is the face and voice of this office. Patients make impressions about me and my office long before they ever meet me. Their first impression is that of my staff the first time they call to make an appointment. So it is essential that they are courteous and helpful. Now, sure, there are patients who push their buttons, and every now and again I’ll have a patient say someone was rude to them, but by and large my patients love them. They tell me how efficient they are, how they know if they call for something it is taken care of immediately, and how pleasant they are to speak with. I have had patients come from other offices saying that they love their old doctor but they can’t go back because they hate the staff. And I am glad that they are not only pleasant with the patients (which is the most important thing), but they also get along great together. In my old office, there was always some kind of drama going on, once to the point that two people got suspended for having a shouting match within hearing distance of patients.
Our EHR (generally) makes work easier. Patients are amazed when, as I am talking to them, I can pull up recent labs, labs that they just had done yesterday. I can send a copy of my note to their primary-care physician with the click of a mouse. A couple more clicks and I can send it to their cardiologist, nephrologist, even their hairdresser if they want me to. I can see exactly when I filled their prescription and for how many refills. And as for my staff, other offices are amazed at how quickly we can send records over. My staff can send a lab result while the other office is still on the phone with them without ever getting up out of their chairs. Yes, there are still bugs, and I get mystery error messages, but I don’t think I could ever go back to paper charts.
Yes, I gripe and moan from time to time. I can tell from some of the responses I get on my posts that some readers must find me a whiny brat; ungrateful for the privilege to serve. Not at all. I cannot imagine doing anything else for a living. I’d like to think that I do what I do well. It’s just that I come across bumps in the road and find the need to share. For a change, I wanted to share some positives today.