For whose convenience: The practice or the patient?

May 1, 2016

Giving pause to so-called conveniences that are offered for the sake of the patient may reveal just the opposite.

Take-home message: Giving pause to so-called conveniences that are offered for the sake of the patient may reveal just the opposite.

 

 

 

Putting It In View By Dianna E. Graves, COMT, BS Ed

I do a fair amount of traveling, so I have become a frequent customer of the local transport facility that houses my truck offsite and shuttles me to the airport.

About a year ago, they started taking online reservations to expedite the process, as well as reserve a space for your vehicle. You estimate the length of time you need to park and pre-pay the amount.

Recently, my flight departure time returning to Minneapolis was pushed up 2 hours, so my arrival time to the parking ramp ended up being 2.5 hours early.

As I was settling the final bill, I noticed I pre-paid $62.00 but the final bill totaled $57.00. I asked the attendant if my card would be refunded the difference.

She smiled and stated: “No, we don’t do that. Your original reservation is what we base the total on, including a $3.00 fee for the ability to pre-book. Pre-booking is a convenience to ensure a space!”

So I smiled back and said: “So I’m being overcharged because the airline made a change for my convenience and my truck had a place to be even if it was for a shorter than planned trip?!”.

She returned my receipt, smiled, and said: ”That’s right.”

I want stock in that company!

How many people a day were overcharged ten cents, a quarter, or dollars because of no refunds?

On a mission now, I began to watch all of the times inconvenient “things” were done for my convenience-the number was astounding.

 

Stop to think about it

It’s pouring rain, you need gas; you pump in the amount you need (which is like taking your daily SAT tests all over again by the time you push ten buttons regarding do you want a car wash, zip code, and do you want a receipt) and begin to pump.

At the end, waiting for the receipt, a prompt pops up that says: “See attendant for receipt.”

I don’t want to see the attendant because someone didn’t put in new paper-that’s why I did everything at the pump. But to now get my receipt I have to walk in the rain to get the receipt-for my convenience.

I was in a restaurant that automatically added in a 15% tip for me so I wouldn’t have to do the math. The service was marginal, food overcooked, and over-spiced, and the wait time after ordering was ridiculous. Yet the automatic recommendation was 15%. Not this time!

I was surrounded by the frustration of people being good to me for my convenience.

So you can imagine my shock when I had a patient call to complain that during their exam they had requested to have their glasses and refraction checked so they could buy a new pair of glasses (total would have been $895.00 profit to our business) and the technician told them they would do the exam as the doctor had ordered and then bring them back-wait for it-at their convenience, for the refraction at later date.

The patient went on a rant for 10 minutes how she had taken a PTO day for this appointment and would not need to take another day out of her vacation time for the refraction. She had requested the refraction 2 weeks ago and no one told her she couldn’t. She ended that she would be going to one of the box stores for the exam and glasses on the weekend versus returning to us because they truly were convenient to her.

 

And, she was right!

Another area you see this in your office is when the doctor schedules a patient for a routine exam, and then they request a visual field, OCT and even A-SCAN at the same time. Patients think they are coming for an hour and a half and are there much longer. Even if you prepare them for an expanded time, they are not happy. Their work is not happy and their kids are waiting on the curb to be picked up! Last but not least, they ran out of money on the parking meter or in the parking ramp and they now want help with the parking fee due to the inconvenience. Yes, the inconvenience.

Guess which patient isn’t going to keep the follow-up appointment?

What I have painfully begun to see is that many things that are done for my convenience are not done for me at all. They are done for your convenience and the business you are running.

Unfortunately, customer service “buzz words” such as “for your convenience” become easy go to answers when patients are angrily contesting your true motives. When a patient finally realizes it is more about your convenience, they will get angry and vocal.

I challenge to look at your systems and see if you have these areas that actually inconvenience your patients:

1.              Physicians who cancel clinics on short notice and rebook at times, or clinic sites that the patient didn’t choose.

2.              The physician is out, or called into surgery, and the patient is seeing a physician they don’t know. Patients have a trust in their doctor, and while their partner is willing to see the patient so they don’t have to be rescheduled, and therefore inconvenienced, please make sure to advise the patient of the substitution before they get to the office. A past personal physician’s office of mine did that twice to me-and I now go to another office, and a new provider.

3.              Give options please!

Patient requests: “I’ve already been here 2 hours, can I please reschedule for another time?” Explain to me that there will be another office fee, or change of location, and let me make the decision.”

The patient is thinking: “If this change of location or even physician, is for my convenience, then why am I irritated? Just because the office has a plan for me, doesn’t mean I agree with it. Please involve me in discussions regarding me and my treatment.”

 

Once you start looking for the “for your convenience” moments examples in your office, you will soon become inundated, and shocked, with what you find.

These need to be rectified, and corrected, in your practice. They also need to be seen as they really are-more of a convenience for your group versus the patient.

So the next time I’m at the airport parking area, and I hear how waiting for the pick-up van to be totally full (sometimes 35 minutes) before we are allowed to go to the ramp and get to ride around exiting customers for another 15 minutes is for my benefit because it keeps costs down by half-filled vans, I am going to give the woman a big smile and say: ”Excuse me-I disagree.”

 

Dianna E. Graves, COMT, BS Ed

E: dgraves@stpauleye.com

Graves is clinical services manager at St. Paul Eye Clinic PA, in Woodbury, MN. Graves is a graduate of the School of Ophthalmic Medical Technology, St. Paul, MN, and has been a member of its teaching faculty since 1983.