The alarm on my cell phone wakes me up at exactly six o’clock. The first thought that comes to mind is my appointment with Dr. Gorgorian. I groan, get out of bed, and get ready for the day.
I arrive ten minutes before my appointment. As I walk into the reception area, I immediately notice there are three different reception desks. Of course, I’m not sure which one I should approach. I’ve been here before, many months ago, and I either can’t remember which desk to approach or the practice has changed things up a bit. I’m sure all eyes are on me, so I get in the nearest line, pretending to be calm and in complete control.
Standing in line, I unwittingly overhear the person in front of me tell the receptionist that she is battling a touch of the flu with a bout of diarrhea. Of course, I don’t want to know this and, I’m quite sure, the poor, sick woman ahead of me would rather I not know her most dark secrets, either.
When it’s my turn, I lower my voice so the person standing behind me won’t know what brought me in today. “Hi, I’m Mark Willis. I’m here to see Dr. Gorgorian. I’m having some pain in…” Before I can finish, the young lady behind the desk interrupts me.
“You’re in the wrong line. See Judy at that desk over there,” she says. She’s not rude or snippy. I get the feeling she’s said the same thing to hundreds of patients this week alone.
Without thinking, I thank her. I shuffle over to the back of the line at Judy’s desk across the room. I do my best to project an air of confidence, like I always knew I needed to see Judy but wanted to stop by and say hi to the other young lady first.
Another wait in line and another story I don’t want to hear, this time about a nagging cough. I finally stand in front of Judy’s desk. She is apparently busy, as she answers the phone before I can say anything. Judy spends a few minutes making a change to some other patient’s appointment.
Judy hangs up the phone and asks for my name. I’ve been one of Dr. Gorgorian’s patients for 20 years, but Judy doesn’t seem to recognize that fact, though she seems familiar to me. While I do all I can to keep the conversation between Judy and I discreet, she pays no attention. She asks if my address or insurance has changed, using a voice that makes our conversation not so private. I tell her it has not, and she pounds on her computer keyboard for a good 15 seconds. After a few deliberate clicks of the mouse, I am given a tablet.
“Take this tablet and follow the directions so we can get you all checked in,” she says with a smile. “Bring it back to me when you’re done.” She ends her instructions with a smile. I take the tablet from her and she goes back to focus on the computer monitor in front of her.
I take a seat. I’m a bit confused by my interaction with Judy. Didn’t I tell her my name already? Didn’t I share with her the reason I need to see Dr. Gorgorian? I’m pretty sure I did, because she attacked her computer with gusto during our brief interchange. If she wasn’t “checking me in”, than what was she doing?
I look at the tablet. I see a big “Start” button and touch it to begin the “automated” check-in process. I review my contact and insurance information to make sure it’s all accurate. The tablet asks me why I’m seeing the doctor. I choose from a list of possible ailments. I’m asked to provide additional commentary and I oblige.
I briefly take note of the ads for cures of erectile dysfunction, constipation, and high blood pressure. Am I being served up a litany of promotional messages based on my demographics?
Yes, I am. And I don’t know how I feel about it. As the CEO of a medical marketing group, I’m intrigued and wonder about response and ROI. As a patient, I am annoyed, partly because of the insinuation that my gastrointestinal system may be a bit slow, and partly because they’re right!
I’m forced to review four pages of personal information to make sure everything is correct. The tablet tells me I need to make a co-pay. I reach into my pocket to reach my wallet. I swipe my card. A receipt is sent to the email address on file. My phone lets me know I have the receipt by beeping at me.
The last page contains a bright colored button that says “Submit”. I tap the button. The tablet asks me to return the tablet to Judy.
I stand up and stroll over to Judy’s desk. She’s talking with another patient. I catch her eye and wave the tablet. She motions me to place it on her desk. I set it down and she gives me a wave that says “Thanks, we’ll call you when the doctor is ready.”
I turn and intend to retake my seat. Another man has taken it, reading the Newsweek magazine that caught my eye earlier. I take another seat, next to a table holding other magazines. I see another issue of Newsweek. I check the date; it’s only a few months old.
I glance at my watch and see that I’ve been waiting for fifteen minutes. When I was younger, I probably would have rolled with the delay. At my age, you don’t wait anymore.
“Hi, Judy?” I smile. “Will I see the doctor soon?”
“I’m sorry,” she says with great empathy. “What doctor are you waiting for?”
“Dr. Gorgorian,” I reply.
“Oh, yes. Dr. Gorgorian is a bit backed up today. He had an emergency this morning and it’s pushed all of his appointments back,” she says. Then she smiles. “I’m sure he’ll be with you soon.”
I retake me seat. I’m irritated. Why didn’t Dr. Gorgorian’s office call and let me know they were running behind? I could have got a bit more done at the office, and take the sting out of telling the team I had to leave in the middle of a busy day for a doctor’s appointment.
I’m also irritated that the gentleman who stole my first Newsweek selection has now stolen the issue I had been reading. I take my seat and do a little people watching. Another ten minutes ticks by.
“Mr. Willis?” a nurse announces across the waiting room.
I get up and wave at her, aware that every person in the waiting room is looking me up and down and thinking ‘I wonder what he’s in for.’
I’m shown to an examination room. The nurse follows me in, shuts the door behind us, points to a worn, matted chair and asks me to take a seat. She logs into an ancient computer bolted to a metal arm attached to the wall. A web of power, display, and network cables dangles below.
The nurse pulls up my chart and asks, “So what brought you in to see Dr. Gorgorian today?”
I’m not sure how to respond.
A Little Courtesy
Patient communication is in the middle of a long journey. At present, I receive text messages to remind me of an appointment. A good start, for sure. But how about a texting engine that is tied to the doctors EHR that notifies all scheduled appointments of a delay? Why not provide me with the option to reschedule the appointment if there is a conflict? Sounds like common courtesy to me.
Oh, and how about a waiting list feature that allows me to sign up for the next available appointment in case of a cancellation? Such a thing would allow me to see the doctor sooner while preserving the doctor’s scheduled production.
Imagine how a simple patient-doctor interaction would improve the patient experience, make patients more pleasant to work with, and keep them as patients for a lifetime. This miracle exists and is a part of the RelevantMD patient engagement platform: A complete two-way patient communication platform designed to drive higher revenues for medical clinics through better patient experience.
Call 800-201-1995 to learn more.