As a healthy thirty-something, I rarely have a doctor’s appointment. So when I got sick during the flu panic I headed to my doctor to be checked out. During the two appointments needed to treat me, the staff committed a number of major customer service failures which led to a poor degree of satisfaction from me, the patient. Consider what this office did wrong, and what they should have done to make it right.
I know that with flu season in full swing, the office would be full so I hurried to make sure was there right in time for my appointment. Luckily I made it with a couple of minutes to spare. I signed in and sat down. About five minutes into my wait, the desk clerk called me up to verify my insurance information. She said she had not seen me come in.
Here is the first missed opportunity for providing outstanding service. Yes, as a healthy 31 year old I could enter the office unassisted, but what if an elderly person had needed help and the clerk hadn’t seen her? Or worse yet, what if someone had collapsed in the waiting room? By having a watchful and helpful person responsible for the waiting area, patients would be not only more satisfied with the attention, but in the long run would be safer.
So after verifying my information, I went back to waiting patiently. A wait at the doctor’s office is expected and I was fine with that. Shortly a nurse ventured through the doors and called my name. I got up and reported to her, ready to be led back. The nurse stood in the doorway and waited for me to pass through. At that point, she really didn’t explain where we were going so I stopped which in a cramped office, created somewhat of a bottleneck.
This initial interaction should have gone quite differently. First, the nurse should have introduced herself and explained where we were going. Although the nurses follow the same routine daily, patients may not understand what happens next. Keeping a patient informed, even of little things like what room to go in to makes the patient feel more at ease.
So once I got weighed and was escorted to the exam room, the nurse followed me in to begin the initial exam. Instead of walking over to gently shut the door, she forcefully pushed in and allowed it to slam shut. This made me feel as though she was in too much of a hurry to deal with me. Without having spoken to me, she didn’t know if I had a headache or some other issue that would be affected by her slamming the door. These exuded an air of carelessness.
Although slamming the door was inappropriate it obviously served a purpose as I soon learned. When the nurse left the room to retrieve a paper, all I heard was the group of nurses complaining about a co-worker, and bickering about favoritism. I thought to myself, don’t they have anything better to do? As I sat waiting to be taken back, were they all sitting and arguing then too?
The arguing continued and was certainly loud enough for any patient in any of the exam rooms to hear. In fact, I could hear the consultation occurring in the next room. Aside form being a HIPPA violation, this is the most serious customer service failure. First and foremost, patients want to know that their medical history is confidential. But when you are placed in rooms with thin walls, suddenly all your private conversations are being heard by anyone in the adjacent rooms.
I was soon greeted by my nurse practitioner. She began by asking how things were since my last visit and if the expectorant was working. I told her I do not remember discussing an expectorant- if we had I would have been taking one. This negligence caused me to wonder if the extra week of being sick, and extra cost of a follow-up visit was all because I wasn’t properly educated during my first visit!
As the CRNP continued my exam, I noticed she turned on the music on the phone system. Although this was subtle, it was odd to have music playing during an exam and was most likely her well intentioned attempt to mask the sounds of nurses bickering or patient information being shared.
At the conclusion of my exam, we exchanged niceties and I went to the waiting room to the two check-out windows. When I approached there were clerks at both windows so I stood there, allowing them to decide who was most able to help me at that moment. Soon enough one of the clerks, without making any eye contact, got up and walked off so I assumed the other would help me. As I waited patiently for the clerk to open the window and check me out, she continued her phone conversation. It soon became evident that this conversation was of a personal nature, and that she really had no intention of hanging up prematurely. As I waited, I gazed around to see more nurses hanging around in the back office, leisurely going about their business and talking with co-workers. Finally after it became obvious that I was becoming impatient, the clerk asked her caller if she could hold on, and begrudgingly checked me out. I paid with my credit card, signed the slip and waited for the invoice that usually accompanies it. The clerk just looked at me blankly until I asked” Is this is?” She replied yes and went back to her phone call and I left as a dissatisfied patient.
It is understandable that at times you cannot help a customer as soon as they are ready to be helped. Yet in this instance, the office staff made no attempt to help me as a customer. What should have happened was that I should have been acknowledged when I approached the window. Even if the clerk could not help me, she should have communicated to me, that she would be with me as soon as she could. This way I would realize I have been seen, and would know that although they are busy, they do understand my time is valuable too.
The worst part of this experience is that this is the treatment levied to people when they are sick. When people aren’t feeling good, may not be able to hear, walk or generally function normally, and they come to a place for care, they should not receive apathy, carelessness and arrogance in return.
Patient satisfaction boils down to a few key behaviors. Communicating with the patient is seen as the most important aspect of patient care. Communication displays a respect for the patient and helps to put the patient at ease in a situation where they are often not in control. Caring for the patient with empathy, make the patient feel secure in uncertain situations. These basic human desires are the key to satisfied patients.
Had the office staff been focused on these key areas, there would be no reason for patient dissatisfaction. Healthcare providers need to pay more attention to the needs of the patient in order to not only please patients but to add in their healing. Following through with basic customer service behaviors like communicating and acting with consideration and empathy can help put the care back into healthcare.