Originally published December, 2007
For a single, brief instant I was your patient.
I’m new in the community and needed to have my diabetic prescriptions renewed.
I didn’t mind that I had to wait five weeks for the first appointment. I like that your practice is that busy. It implies that you’re in demand.
I appreciated the reminder phone call yesterday, confirming the appointment and suggesting that I arrive 15 minutes early to handle any necessary paperwork.
Perhaps you remember that my appointment was for 10am. Since I didn’t know what the traffic would be like, or how difficult your office would be to find, I left for your office at 9am, and arrived at 9:30. After checking in and completing your new patient forms I sat patiently waiting to be called.
I wasn’t upset when 10am passed and no one had called my name.
I wasn’t really upset at 10:15.
By 10:30 I was becoming annoyed. I asked your receptionist if it was going to be much longer. Without even looking up she told me she didn’t know, but they’d call me as soon as they were ready for me.
By 10:45 I should have walked out, but I needed my prescriptions. I didn’t have five weeks left to start this process with another doctor.
At 11:02 a nurse called my name. She weighed me, took my blood pressure, confirmed the meds I’m taking, and showed me to an exam room. She closed the door upon her exit, and I sat alone there until you finally walked in at 11:36.
Instead of making eye contact you looked at the chart, and introduced yourself. No apology. No recognition of my inconvenience. In fact, you didn’t look up at all until I asked what had caused you to be running 97 minutes behind on your first 120 minutes of operation.
As you looked into my ears and mouth you told me that you couldn’t anticipate how long each patient would need your attention.
I wondered why not? You’ve been in business for at least 90 days. It seems to me that tallying the number of patients you see, the number of hours you’re open, and dividing one by the other should get you in the ballpark.
Perhaps you recall, Doctor, indignantly telling me that you haven’t been able to take a lunch in the last two months? That you worked straight through your scheduled 90 minute mid-day break to take care of the patients waiting to see you?
If, in every one of the last 60 days it took an extra hour and a half to catch up on half a day’s appointments, then you obviously are scheduling them too close together. This accomplishes nothing but to really make your patients cranky.
Not as cranky as you appeared, though, when you handed me the scrip I’d come in for. (That was when I explained that by working through lunch you were only making my point).
And We Arrived at the Critical Moment
Do you remember when you angrily demanded to know if I understood how much it costs to have your staff standing around waiting on patients, and that you still had student loans to pay off?
That was the exact moment when our doctor/patient relationship ended.
Oh, you’re probably not aware of it. I took the sheet with your charges to the clerk and paid on my way out. But, the relationship has definitely ended. I decided that long before I arrived back at my office at 12:29, very angry to have wasted half a day to simply renew the prescriptions I’ve been taking for years.
You see, whether you realize it or not, you’re a consultant.
People hire you for the expert advice you give them when they have health care concerns. Many other people are consultants, too. Insurance agents, hair dressers, and Realtors come to mind.
They call people who purchase their services “customers,” while yours are known as “patients,” but it’s pretty much the same relationship.
I wouldn’t have waited an hour and a half beyond a firm appointment for any of them. I wouldn’t have expected them to wait on me were the tables turned. But with you and a great many of your colleagues, this is business as usual.
You Keep Your Productivity High by Insuring That Mine is Low
That, and your total disrespect for me as your customer are the reasons I won’t be back.
So, as I tell you goodbye, let me leave you with two thoughts:
1.Your accountant has been counting your inactive patient files as assets of your practice.
He’s kidding himself.
If he ever sat in your waiting room he’d understand why you have such a large percentage of inactive patients.
2.People like me, the well-paid executives who can afford your services, don’t normally make a scene as we leave.
We simply determine that you’re not worth the investment of any further time.
So, when you find yourself squeezed between managed care and deadbeat patients, remember that I’m in my peak earning years, my time is valuable to me, and I’d have gladly paid more for express service.
Remind yourself, too, that I am a great source of word-of-mouth. Unfortunately, in your case, it won’t be favorable. I will, however, get a massive amount of satisfaction repeating this story. I’ll be telling it for years. When you advertise your practice, how many gross ratings points will you have to purchase just to neutralize me?
One of these days one of your colleagues is going to figure this out. He’s going to appear on television with a simple message:
“I’m Doctor Johnson, the business person’s doctor. I’m not one of the lower priced doctors in town – in fact, I’m probably one of the most expensive. But, if you’re accepted as my patient (and not everyone is) I promise you’ll never wait more than 15 minutes for your appointment. Come see me. Doctor Johnson, the business person’s doctor, at the corner of Main and Second Street for your convenience.”
He’s going to make a fortune on people like me. Something to consider when you’re fishing for patients.
Your Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.
Need some help seeing your service from your customer’s point of view? Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@ChuckMcKayOnLine.com and start a conversation. Or call him at 760-813-5474.