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Friday, July 15, 2011
Re: Doctors and Customer Service
Some people don’t agree with treating patients like “customers” or “consumers”, because they feel that a greater amount of importance is placed on how much money a patient garners for a medical practice with this model of patient care. I disagree to a point, since patients are consumers of the health or medical related services that they seek from doctors and healthcare facilities. The healthcare system exists to cater to the patient’s health care needs. Therefore, the patient is a customer and consumer of the healthcare system.
You have probably experienced it or you might know at least one person that has experienced poor customer service in a doctor’s office or other healthcare setting. Don’t get me wrong: I have had some very positive experiences with many medical doctors, and for that I am eternally grateful. However, a few negative experiences can sometimes cast a negative light on the whole of a profession. I am not sure how this all started, but somewhere along the way, stellar customer service has fallen by the wayside in the healthcare system.
Doctors could provide good customer care by making sure that their patients or customers feel as comfortable as possible. Patients are already on edge about a stranger prodding and probing them. It helps to allay some of the anxiety by making the patient feel comfortable. Courtesy and respect are some basic, yet powerful tools in helping the customer to feel comfortable. When doctors and their staff members display an impersonal attitude towards their patients, it doesn’t do much in terms of showing patients respect. For instance, medical doctors will sometimes enter the examining room without even speaking or introducing themselves. Some healthcare professionals start doing things to the patient without telling the patient what it is that he or she is doing. It’s just plain rude and impersonal.
Part of a good customer service experience is building a trust and rapport with the patient. If the patient has concerns about the course of treatment that he or she is receiving, then a good doctor would have no problems addressing those concerns. A patient should never feel as if their concerns are getting placed on the back burner, because the doctor is in a hurry or feels insulted by lots of questions.
My personal negative customer service experience with a doctor
I can write a book about the amount of poor customer service experiences that I have had with doctors. One of them is really prominent in my mind. Several years ago, I visited a dermatologist in Broward county for the first time. He was supposedly respected in the medical community amongst his colleagues. He had solid credentials and a considerable amount of experience in the field, however this particular doctor lacked in the area of “bedside manner”. I went in for treatments for moderate acne. In the past I was successfully treated by another dermatologist with topical medications, such as Retin-A. I was searching for a similar remedy. The doctor quickly told me that he does not prescribe Retin-A in his practice.
He told me that he implements different techniques and treatments. His methods entail treatments that didn’t resonate well with me such as injections to the face, and exposure to UV light to kill the acne-causing bacteria in the skin. He also prescribed his own formulation of topical medications that contains benzoyl peroxide. Well, I absolutely abhor benzoyl peroxide, because it leaves my skin very dry, discolored, and irritated. The thing that disturbed me most about this encounter, is that this doctor was not willing to listen to what I was saying; It was either his way or the highway. The other thing that bothered me is that this doctor seemed pretty much to be using me as a guinea pig to support his “research”.
At one point in our discussion, things got pretty tense. I refused most of his suggested treatments. I left this doctor’s office feeling that he could not provide me with a resolution to my problem. I paid him for the treatment that I did accept. However, I cancelled all subsequent appointments with this dermatologist, and never returned to his office again. If this doctor had been willing to listen to my suggestions, and take the stick out of his butt, then perhaps the outcome would have been different.
I respect doctors: They invested an inordinate amount of money and time in their education and training. Doctors use their expertise to help, heal, and teach people. Doctors are our friends, and not our enemies. So, I am not bashing doctors or the health care industry as a whole. I am talking about the doctors and other healthcare professionals who are in it for the wrong reasons and lack respect for patients.
It really does take a special type of person to have the patience, skill, and compassion that is requisite to be a great healthcare professional. People should not get into medicine or healthcare as a career if it is not their calling. Dealing with the public is a difficult proposition, and not for the faint of heart. I can say this as both a patient and a former healthcare professional. No matter how difficult a job or patient may be, respect and quality healthcare is due to the patient.
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