No Special Privileges for Patients at My Medical Practice

September 17, 2012

I understand that to each individual patient there is no one more important, no one more urgent. But I am one physician and can only see one person at a time.

“I’m sorry, but I can only see one patient at a time, and I can’t ask someone who’s been waiting for their appointment to reschedule so I can accommodate you.”

“That’s fine. I’m on the [hospital] board. I’ll make it known.” (Click.)

I have played that conversation again and again in my head. I keep thinking of what else I could have said, what I wish I could have said had I not been hung up on. I think about what I am going to do or say when she sics the CFO or CEO or some other big shot on me.

Perhaps, I should back up a little. My staff received a call from Mrs. B. She needs a new patient appointment and wants it next week. Now unfortunately, there is a substantial wait to see me or my associate (the national lack of endocrinologists is a whole discussion unto itself). She was not happy with that and, allegedly, told my staff that she needed to talk to me, she is on the board and is responsible for hiring me (Hiring me? Funny, I thought I was self-employed.), that my staff had better rethink what she said, and that she had better give me the message in its entirety. Well, I received that message, and while I did not relish making that call, I did.

The conversation started pleasant enough. I asked how I could help her. She proceeded to start giving me her medical history. I could see why she felt she needed to get in urgently, but I told her that I could not take her history over the phone, and I asked what I could do for her. She said she was told she had to wait for an appointment but she wants to be seen sooner. That’s when the above exchange occurred.

So what did she expect? Did she think that by talking to me my schedule would miraculously open up? Did she expect me to move someone to accommodate her? Oh, sure, the pregnant woman with thyroid cancer who has already waited two months won’t mind waiting another three for a board member. The patient with diabetes and a foot ulcer can wait, too. I guess when she sics some hospital executive on me, I’ll give him their phone numbers, and he can arrange it. And I’ll ask him to make sure he spells his full name and gives them his exact job title, so that when we call the press we have all the facts straight.

Or maybe, she wants me to see her before or after hours. Yeah, I could do that, too. If they pay my staff time and a half for overtime, make sure that my receptionist has a police escort so she can get to school on time afterwards, and sends someone to pick up my kids from school and take them to soccer practice.

Listen, I don’t want to turn patients away. I understand that to each individual patient there is no one more important, no one more urgent. But I am one person. I can only see one person at a time. I will not double book. I will not shorten my visits. These are part of the reason people like coming to our office. And I will not ever choose patients based on their position in life, their influence on others, or their veiled threats.

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