Physician heal thyself

Before I start let me just say, in case any of my good friends who are physicians read this article, that I hope it doesn’t cause any strain on our friendship, but the truth must be told.

In today’s economy businesses are trying to improve and re-engineer their processes in order to be more efficient and deliver better service to their customers. Why is it then that doctors don’t see the need to do this? Is it because they believe that we need them more than they need us? Or do they not realise that they are offering a service and we, the patients, are the consumers?

I don’t think that I’ve ever been to a doctor’s office and not had to wait an unreasonable amount of time. I know that I’m not alone in this because a leading businessman, who is a friend of mine, was complaining about it to me recently. He’s probably even more intolerant of it than I am as he is very conscious of his time.

Another thing I don’t understand is the way they schedule appointments. My doctors have appointments scheduled 15 or 20 minutes apart, which is ludicrous since they are too thorough to take only 15 or 20 minutes with a patient.

I turned up for an appointment this week only to discover that a couple of walk-ins were ahead of me. What then was the point of me having an appointment if walk-ins could get in to see the doctor before me? Needless to say I had to reschedule because there was no way I was prepared to wait for what looked like at least an hour.

I thought that was bad but my friend said that he once went to a leading orthopedic surgeon for an eight o’clock appointment, only to find about 15 other people as well. Surely they were not backed up from earlier appointments. That was the first and last time that he went there.

I honestly believe that doctors think their time is more important that their patients’ time. Granted they may have spent five to seven years to get qualified, but I spent six years to get qualified as an Accountant (mainly because of too much partying instead of studying) so I happen to think that my time is pretty important as well, not to mention valuable.

Apart from the inconvenience of wasting valuable time, there is the cost to companies of loss of productivity from their employees who have to take time off to go to the doctor or to accompany their children.

My friend John is of the strong opinion that the reason for the long wait times is because doctors fear walking into their waiting room and seeing it empty, so instead they get their receptionists to pack the appointment book with an unrealistic schedule and therefore inconvenience their patients instead.

Another thing that upsets me to no end is those doctors who have the system where their assistant calls you in and takes your blood pressure or does a blood sugar and blood protein test so that you think you’re going to see the doctor soon and then you end up waiting another 15 or more minutes to get in.

What I’ve taken to doing now, and my friend John tells me he does this as well, is to call the receptionist and see how the room is looking and get them to call us back when the last person ahead of us is inside.

What I don’t understand is why Bajans tolerate this and don’t admonish their doctor about it. I cannot recall a doctor ever apologising for my long wait. I can’t imagine setting an appointment with a client and keeping them waiting for an hour and not even apologising. Not only is that unprofessional; it’s downright rude and to add insult to injury we then have to pay up to $150 if he/she is a specialist.

If we’re really serious about service in Barbados, we can’t just look at the retail, hospitality and Government sectors, we need to have zero tolerance for the poor service we accept from the all the sectors and the medical fraternity is no exception. Their job it is to assist in healing and making life as comfortable as possible for their patients. What could be more uncomfortable than not feeling well and then having to sit in a doctor’s office for hours?

Physicians it is wonderful that you have been trained to heal others and we are grateful for that ability but I can only attribute this total disregard of other people’s time to either poor time management or some unnamed psychological disorder so I implore you: heal yourself.

* Donna Every is a Chartered Accountant and an MBA who worked with Ernst & Young for ten years before starting her own Business Advisory practice, Arise Consulting Inc. She has written four books including What Do You Have in Your House?, Surviving in Times of Financial Crisis and the novel The Merger Mogul.

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