Recently, I spoke with an office manager who was concerned that her technicians were starting just to "go through the motions" when it came to working with patients. Although they all had smiles pasted on their faces and were very pleasant when they greeted patients, she didn't feel that there was sincerity in the way they conducted patient exams.
When I would witness this in my clinic, my usual reaction would be to walk by the technician's door with an overexaggerated smile on my face and give a silent, but firm, indication to "jolly up" the exam.
But then I started to recognize, sadly, that this manager was witnessing technician burnout. Worse yet, if she was noticing it, the patients not only were noticing it, but they were feeling the lack of care. Add to that the brief 4 or 5 minutes they were going to have with the physician in a whirlwind exam.
As a technologist, I can appreciate fully the technicians' burnout. Since the economic downturn, practices have been scrambling to see as many patients as possible today because none of us knows if those patients will be walking in the door tomorrow.
Offices that once had structured schedules have learned to become much looser in their scheduling philosophies. Although the lucky offices have managed to ride out this storm, there has been a cost. Because of the loosened scheduling parameters offices have adopted, the phrase "clinic flow" often is thrown by the wayside.
Maximizing clinic appointment times has added bottlenecks in the once highly orchestrated flows. It also has decreased the amount of time that the staff has had giving that little extra something of caring and spending time with the patient.
Patients are noticing this. In the past, I have talked with managers who receive complaints from patients that the physician does not spend enough time with them. To be truthful, I have received those calls as well.
But now I am hearing complaints that the staff is not giving patients the same amount of attention as it once did. Patients are paying more for the exams and we are offering less, in their opinion.