What has been your experience when visiting a doctor's office?
August 6, 2003
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If you're like me, you may find yourself doing a mini-consulting analysis when you visit your physician's office as a patient. It provides an interesting real world twist when the optometrist becomes the patient. And if your experience is like mine, the "customer service" aspects of health care today is absolutely horrible. There are a few exceptions, but generally speaking, there is little regard for the patient's comfort and convenience. Customer service in medicine may have gotten worse because of the squeezing of fees by managed care, or because many primary care practices are so busy.
Let's take a look at a typical visit to my family physician's office.
I call to make an appointment, but I eventually realize that I'm talking to an answering service and the person knows nothing about the practice. I find that the doctor's hours are very irregular and the office is closed at various times through the week. I get an appointment.
I arrive at the clinic, but there are no convenient parking spaces.
I enter the waiting area and walk up to the reception desk, but there is no one there to greet me. I'm not sure if I should sign in, sit down or wait at the desk.
I begin to read various hand-written signs that are taped around the reception window that have various warnings of things I must do and must not do in order to receive services.
A receptionist appears, but she is quite frazzled and she picks up the ringing phone without acknowledging me. She ignores me and I feel like I'm an inconvenience to her.
I sit down in the last chair in the waiting room, which is quite crowded and small. I wonder if I will get sick during the wait.
The magazines look dog-eared and old, and I find myself reading a pamphlet about irritable bowel syndrome, even though I don't have that condition.
I wait about a half hour after my appointment time, and I think some people who arrived after me were called in ahead of me.
I'm finally called in, which makes me very happy... only to find that I must wait another half hour in a small exam room.
I finally see the doctor, and because I'm a fellow health professional, things go pretty well, but I wonder how much attention I would have received if I were not a doctor.
So what's the point of this story? It's easy to let our own practices get like this in some ways, and it's easy to overlook it if you aren't the patient. Remember that marketing is identifying and satisfying patients' wants and needs. The medical office I described above has allowed its procedures to evolve based on the practice's wants and needs, or the doctor and staff's wants and needs.
If a practice is extremely busy and efficient, marketing and customer service may not be that important to its success. But most optometry practices offer many elective services and most need to be busier. If you work on customer service, just think how good your practice can look in comparison to the other health care practices out there. Patients will notice and they will talk about it.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.