Dear Doctor, (letter to a Doctor)

Physician reviewing records

This is a post from a person I interact with on social media. It has been heavily modified to keep anonymity. I have obtained express consent from this person to share their views here.

Dear Dr. — Thanks for seeing my child today & conducting a comprehensive exam. We were pleased with your care & the recommendations received.

However, please work with your staff on:
1 -Don’t tell me ‘1 hour’ if I ask how long the the appointment will last and then expect me to be happy after more than three.   Yes – I do know I will have to wait  – a range would be helpful.
2 – When called to reconfirm by your staff, I asked if they had all of our reports sent 2 months ago which were printed for you (it’s a little complicated).   Don’t have them tell me ‘yes’ when the answer was ‘NO’.   Putting a ‘see me’ post it note on the file from a staff member who is out of the office is not helpful.
3 – You are excellent in what you do.  I’m happy to pay for your knowledge and expertise but not your data entry skills (see above).
4 – When I explain to your staff that my child is uncomfortable going to physician’s offices and I need to prepare him about what to expect, please don’t giggle.  Is this the first time your staff has been asked this question?  I can’t believe that.

Thank you.

 

Comments:

-A friend once sent a bill to his doctor for making him wait 3 hours.

-I hear you . Waiting forever is the worst! Some health professionals need to brush up on their interpersonal skills.

-(We) were just talking about the medical practitioners we’ve left over the years…because of their staff!!

-…staff was really frustrating.  …tried to give feedback constructively and professionally but the attitude was unreal.

 

Can anyone not relate to this?  (Unless you are a practicing physician or administrator and you are so busy you have no time to go to the doctor!)  I view this as a systems failure.  The processes to make sure that this patient had an excellent experience were not there – the Doctor seems to being doing all he can to make the experience great (except for the ubiquitous data-entry EMR curse that patients hate as much as physicians!), but the staff undermines his efforts and this visit goes squarely into the negative category.  Regardless of where you want to place accountability (the staff, the physician, the office manager, the administrator), the root cause of this negative experience could be looked at and improved.

What the patient (patient’s parent/responsible party) wanted in this circumstance was:

  1. Accurate scheduling (responsible booking, integration with MD’s calendar)
  2. Accurate information (saying “you should block off your afternoon, but we will try to get you out in an hour” would go a long way here)
  3. No data entry (hire a scribe or switch your EMR system!)
  4. Transmissible Review of information by a staff member (no “see me” post-its – that’s poor continuity of care)
  5. To be treated with respect and dignity (NO giggling or attitude).

The last item is the most concerning – I know that we are starting to recognize ‘compassion fatigue’ and ‘burnout’ in docs in increasing numbers, and it almost certainly crosses over to support staff.  But this offending staff needs to be trained/educated, or shown the door.  Someone else’s discomfort is never a cause for a healthcare staffer’s entertainment.  Better to create systems and processes that rein in the chaos and allow these staffers to feel less besieged and give a level of care that supports the hard-working doctor’s efforts, not negates them.