Doctors, Aren’t Patients Clients, Too?

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FOR THREE consecutive weeks this month, and even for previous bi-annual check-ups, I’ve been kept waiting for over an hour for each appointment, despite arriving punctually at the eye clinic.

Today, I asked the front liner why the wait was so long and when I could expect to see the doctor.

Front liner: “There is a delay, that’s all I can say.  What you want me to do?”

Bedside Manners

Finally, I got to see the eye specialist.  After his examination, I said calmly that I wanted to give him some feedback, and told him about the long wait and the reaction of the front liner.

The doctor said he would ‘’have a word with him’’.  With this dismissive one-liner, I decided to speak up and not mince my words.

“Patients are your paying customers and clients. You are running a practice, no different from a business. In business one would never dream of being late for an appointment with a client, and if one is late or delayed, we say sorry,” I said, quite annoyed.


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You may think otherwise, but patients and medical staff are actually like client and vendor.  Your time, which is your life, is as precious as mine. You have 24 hours a day, so do we.  You may be a doctor, or more educated, but we are all humans.

I have seen many general practitioners, dentists and specialists — and one thing is common — they hardly make an effort to arrive on time.  I am not talking about being held up at the operating theatre, I am talking about actually arriving first thing in the morning when the clinic opens.


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Be realistic in your scheduling.  Don’t expect to see a patient in five minutes and pack in 10 of them within half an hour.  Even though we don’t seem to be “paying” customers because  of co-payment with insurers, it is still money to you, and many times we top up from our own pocket with additional medication — which is highly marked up — since it is not covered by the measly insurance coverage.


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Nothing is free.  If you continue to see your practice as a money-making venture, then behave in a customer-centric manner.

He tried to placate me by explaining:

“Today, it’s not expected because we got two complicated cases — surgery to schedule — so we needed more time explaining to them.  Also, sometimes we have walk-ins or patients who come late….”

My reply:

“Then provide a buffer. Be realistic. You don’t do scheduling based on the assumption that all cases are simple, requiring only a few minutes of consultation. Make less money and have a bigger window in your appointments. I know you want to make more profit by packing in many patients and minimising patient interaction time, but by getting your timing wrong, you are making patients wait unfairly.

“Your clients may be busy executives too – with many appointments to keep in the office. We have bosses to report to. Each time we take time off to come here we need to make the necessary arrangement back in the office or ask for time off from boss. Or we have to reschedule our own appointments just to be here.”

Show Some Respect

I made an effort to be punctual, so respect that — make an effort to turn up punctually too. If a patient comes late and eats into the next appointment, then make him/her wait and see those who are on time. If hair salons can do that, and my gynae too, why can’t you?


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I am not unreasonable. Had I seen an emergency case — anyone staggering in with bloody eyes — and there is a delay, I will gladly accept it.

You can’t just blame your front liner for being ‘’rude’’ if you do not manage the scheduling first.  And if that is messed up, the least you or he could do is apologise. I did not hear a single word to that effect, instead I get ‘’what do you want me to do’’?

So you know what?  I asked him “What do YOU expect me to do?”.

Storm out and never come back? Storm into your office and insist you see me now?  Is that professional?

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3 Things You Could Do

1)      Vow never to come back. See other doctors, ask for all case notes to be transferred to another clinic.

2)      Don’t recommend this clinic to your friends, colleagues, relatives, acquaintances or enemies. Well, maybe not your enemies….

3)      Give feedback and hope for improvement. Or at least an apology.

 

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Follow Up

So out I went for my follow up appointment in six months.

The front liner gave me a date. I want the first appointment please, I told her.

“That would be 9am.  But doctor comes in only at 9.30am, so you still have to wait.”

So I said, then let me have the 9.30am one, like today, and how will you manage those coming in for the 9am to 9.30am appointments?

She had no answer.

So,why have a 9am slot in the first place?


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7 Comments
  1. You are nothing but an unreasonable spoilt brat. It is the prerogative of doctors and dentists and anyone operating any business to decide what time he or she wants to show up at his or her establishment and it is none of your business, my dear. Have you wondered why sometimes business owners show up at certain times and not at the time you think they should show up? Have you even have the brains to step into other people’s shoes and consider their sides of the story? They are not beholden to you and as for bedside manners, they are not your baby sitter. What’s wrong with you? Didn’t your parents bring you up well? You complain about waiting, get used to it, idiot! Even at high-priced Michelin-starred restaurants where you have confirmed reservations, you would have to wait. Even if you have a confirmed first-class ticket on an airline which I doubt you will ever have, haha, you can be bumped off the flight. Even uber-expensive private hospitals like Mount E, where you obviously cannot afford because you are a cheapskate, you would have to wait and if you wish to see a particular doctor and he comes in late, you suck it up, baby, it is his right to come in anytime you want because you need him, not him you. You talk about being a client or customer. So the customer is always right is it? Honestly many businesses would rather not have morons like you as clients or customers. Shut your pie-hole and grow up, b***h! Waiting won’t kill you. It is part of life and if you cannot hack it, go be a hermit in some Thai cave and pray you will never have kind strangers risking their lives to rescue your pathetic one. Your shitty attitude will drive you to an early grave. Get real, get a life and try to be normal. The population of this country is bursting at its seams, even buying a drink at the food court, you would have to wait, so what’s your problem?! And you are in corporate communication, public relations and posting this on LinkedIn? And you are still hired? Seriously? Maybe your bosses should read your post and make you a career decision!

  2. Janet is spot on in criticising this BAD,INCONSIDERATE & UNPROFESSIONAL attitude of many Medical Practitioners through the globe! It’s not included in part of the curriculum of their leanings and trainings unfortunately! I totally agree to every word of what she has written. Great comment, Janet.

  3. I will not wait bloody unnecessarily and will WALK OUT
    In most of the circumstances that you mentioned! I will also give them the ” Shits”!

  4. M’y physiotherapist simply shaves off time spent on you if you are late. My GP is always late. The reason is that it gives patients time to « slow » down and not come with a thumping heart. So like you i ask for the first appointment. At least I know that I have only half an hour to wait. The problem is that when I am a little, she’s on time. You can’t win them all

  5. I do believe doctors actually do their best to schedule appointments and plan accordingly. On the other hand there are always patients who will try to drag out their time because they have a “by the way” question and think they can ask everything since there’s only a flat consultation fee.

    The way I see it, doctors should charge by the minute, just like lawyers. It makes things efficient and clean. If you want premium services be prepared to pay premium prices.

    Don’t want to wait during rush hour traffic? You can always choose to pay for the ERP. It’s not necessarily fast, but at least its the best option out there.

    Just saying.

  6. Patient patients beget patient doctors. Healthcare is not a purely business transaction. We doctors do not treat you as a “client” and I don’t think you would want us to. We will give you more time if your case needs more time, but this means we hope you can understand if we give other patients more time if they need it. If this were purely transactional, I’m sure there would be a special charge for patients like yourself who demand “premium service”. But it doesn’t work that way. You ask us to have buffer time, and we actually do! But some cases just need more. Unforeseen circumstances demand more, and as professionals we need to settle the emergent problem in front of us before we move on to the next. We cannot leave a wound open because time is up. Please consider your views again. Cheers!

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