Article Date: 5/1/2010

Evaluations Don't Tell The Whole Story

Evaluations Don't Tell The Whole Story

When you connect with patients, your practice's score may not matter.

Jim Thomas

If you have any interest in practice management, then you probably learn valuable lessons when you visit other doctors' offices. You might even run through a mental checklist when you visit these practices (as I do): Is signage clear and accurate? Is the staff friendly and helpful? Do they provide clear explanations? Is the reception area clean, comfortable and attractive? Are marketing and educational materials professionally presented? There's five questions already, and I've yet to see a doctor or a technician.

My son needed his wisdom teeth removed, so last month I drove him to an oral surgeon's office. The mental checklist clicked into gear as soon as I arrived at the parking lot, and it continued through the procedure and then check out. The practice scored very well.

A pleasant surprise

But here's where the practice surpassed expectations: The reception area provided wireless Internet. This is a terrific bonus because most patients at the oral surgeon's office need a caregiver to remain in the office during the procedure and to provide transportation. This caregiver often must miss a half- or full-day of work, unless he works in a profession in which he can log into the office from a remote laptop. This benefit allows the patient more flexibility in scheduling, as the caregiver no longer must look for a day when they anticipate downtime at work. Three of the four caregivers who waited in reception took advantage of the Internet connection. The fourth kept happily occupied with the office's widescreen HD TV.

The practice took a negative — long office visits — and through technology, made it irrelevant.

An unintended shot

Fast forward one week. I'm taking my daughter to the pediatrician because of a sore throat and 101° temperature. Again, the office scores well … that is, until the doctor takes a throat culture. “With your insurance,” he tells me, with a roll of his eyes and a shrug of his shoulders, “it takes three to four days to get results from the lab.”

I lowered my head in shame. Granted, the doctor wasn't trying to insult me. And I know it's tough to wear the “game face” for every patient (and caregiver) when you treat scores of patients in a single day. Still, all the straight A's for an attractive office, helpful staff, etc., instantly faded with the implication that my insurance plan was second-rate.

As a caregiver, I don't have to take this. The next time, my wife goes to the pediatrician. OM

Optometric Management, Issue: May 2010