Are you as tired as I am of playing the doctors’ waiting room game?
You know the drill. You arrive on time for your appointment. Then you are asked to fill out forms that you could have completed in advance if they had simply told you about them and made them available online. Next, you wait in the crowded, bacteria-infested waiting room with all the other sickies. In time, they move you into the inner sanctum of the office, but only to take your vitals and then transfer you to the examining room where you sit alone and wait — perhaps wearing a paper dress — for about as long as it takes mold to grow.
Finally, your doctor graces you with a brief appearance and then disappears out the door like the masked man (is that reference too old? Have you ever heard of the Lone Ranger?).
Listen to me carefully because I am totally serious about this.
Revolt! Don’t take it any more.
Fire your doctor and move on to another doctor who will respect your time and treat you like an actual human being, not simply a procedure code to bill your insurance company for. (That’s what doctors are paid for, you know, procedures.)
A medical practice is a business. That’s why they overbook patients, so they can cram as many different procedures into the day as possible.
Let me repeat that. Many doctors overbook patients knowing that many patients will be inconvenienced and shortchanged in their time with the doctor simply so the doctor can make more money.
Why have we let them get away with this outrage this long?
Let’s treat these medical businesses like any other businesses. If they provide unacceptable service, fire them! If enough of us do this, over a period of time, the medical businesses will learn that the way to be a successful is to treat their customers right, which includes being respectful of their time.
Let me tell you about two recent experiences that show how I am following my own advice.
I needed a primary care physician. So I did my research, online and by asking for recommendations from friends. I finally focused on Rakesh Malik, M.D., whose office is located at 19785 Crystal Rock Drive, Suite 209, Germantown, MD 20874. Actually, I located Dr. Malik through a very interesting website called zocdoc.com. At zocdoc.com, you can learn about a list of doctors’ credentials, read patient reviews and then make appointments through the zocdoc site. (Unfortunately, zocdoc is only available in a few areas.)
After meeting twice with Dr. Malik, I am completely satisfied with his service. I have not had to wait in his waiting room because appointments start on time. Dr. Malik takes the necessary time to explain my problems to me. And his practice uses modern tools. For example, as I already explained, you can make appointments online. They transmit prescriptions to your pharmacy electronically so the prescriptions will be ready when you get to the pharmacy. And Dr. Malik maintains a secure online portal where patients can go to read lab and other tests results as soon as they are received.
That, my friends, is how it is supposed to be done.
Compare that with my experience when I made an appointment with orthopaedic surgeon David M. Smink, M.D., whom I saw at his office located at 19532 Doctors Drive, Germantown, MD 20874. His practice is called Greater Washington Orthopaedic Group.
Thinking I was being clever, I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Smink at 1:30 p.m., his first afternoon appointment, before he could get behind schedule.
It turns out I was not as clever as I thought. I’ll spare you the details except to say that it was the familiar waiting room mambo. The end result was that, an hour after I had appeared (on time) for my appointment, I was still sitting half-naked in a cold treatment room. At that point, I put my clothes on and left. On the way out, I encountered Dr. Smink. He offered no reason or sincere apology for the delay. If I read him right, he was surprised that I objected to wasting an hour sitting in his office. I calmly told him that I would find someone else who is more patient-focused and more respectful of patients’ time.
I understand that sometimes delays can’t be avoided. There really are healthcare emergencies that arise. But this delay wasn’t the result of an emergency. It resulted, as nearly as I can tell, from Dr. Smink simply booking multiple patients for the same time period, knowing (and obviously not caring) that someone would have to wait.
My view is that when you choose to pursue a service profession you commit first and foremost to providing that professional service. Being part of a profession brings many benefits and privileges, but the price you pay for them is that you sincerely place your patients first.
The next time one of your doctors forgets that, fire your doctor! And find one like Dr. Malik.