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Her Piece Of Mind

Her Piece Of Mind

As most people age, they realize that time becomes their most important commodity. I find that time is more important than money these days, even though time is said to be money.

Nowadays it seems as if everyone is on a tight uninterruptable schedule. Not just those patients in the workforce, but those who are stay at home moms, retirees, nannies, college, high school and middle school students, and even some elementary and preschool children run on a rigorous timetable. I am not sure if these firm schedules are related to our innate circadian rhythms or if they are just inherent to the evolution of society and mankind in general. Regardless, strict schedules are a reality.

Recently a mom brought her child into the office for a follow-up visit. Her son was six or seven years old. She herself is a patient. I believe her husband is an orthodontist or perhaps, an oral surgeon. Regardless, he is a dental practitioner of some sort. I have a dentist and I visit his office twice yearly for cleanings and routine hygienic care. I am usually greeted by one of his dental hygienist within a few minutes of my appointment time and off we go to the dental suite. It takes her roughly forty minutes to clean and examine my teeth. If the hygienist has any questions about the health of my teeth, she will ask my dentist to come to the room and examine me. If he is in surgery or busy with a patient, she will often times schedule another appointment for me to return to the office for a brief examination by him.

When I return, he usually greets me within a few minutes and walks me to the exam room. After a few moments of friendly chatter, he looks in my mouth, makes his assessment of the work that needs to be done and then reschedules me for another appointment or two to complete the work. Sometimes the therapeutic adventure takes several relatively short episodes of care (less than an hour at a time), but in total several hours overall. It is a clever scheduling activity since the entire care package is broken up into a number of visits. I have had several routine visits that did not require any follow-up activity. There have been a couple of occasions that my dentist had an emergency case that prolonged my wait time, maybe by an hour or two.

My son has had two shoulder surgeries over the past three years. Each initial visit and follow-up visit in the orthopedist's office were associated with at least an hour's wait in the lobby, and another hour in the patient examination room. Although my son may have asked, "What's taking so long?" a number of times on each visit, I patiently sat with him, letting him know that the orthopedist was seeing patients and each day he is met with unscheduled activities that prolong each patient's visit. I have never confronted any physician or dentist myself on wait times and I cautioned my son to do the same. No one wants to work twelve hours a day to make a living each and every week. There are always unexpected delays in a physician’s workday.

On that particular day, three or four patients had walk-in appointments. Walk-ins are exactly that, walk-ins. I encourage my patients to come to the office when they are acutely ill, and spend 10 minutes with me and my staff in an attempt to evaluate and treat their new onset illness or an exacerbation of their chronic ailments. Sometimes patients have a rash or a bump or a bruise. Sometimes they have pneumonia. There is no way of knowing what is acutely ailing a patient who walks through the threshold at the Stone Institute. My office staff encouraged that mom on that day to come to the office later than her scheduled appointment, because we were running two hours or more behind. Instead of her heeding the warnings of my staff, she came to the office at 3:30 pm, her original scheduled time, and waited to be seen.

When I finally got to her and her son, they had been in the waiting room for about two and half hours. She had several arguments with my staff while she was waiting. In the past, if she (herself) came into the office at her scheduled time and she was not ushered into the room within thirty minutes, she would leave the office. She had a history of ignoring the warnings about prolonged wait times and could not understand how a medical office could run so far behind.

As fate would have it, when I entered the treatment room, she unleashed a rant that lasted about twenty minutes. I did not know she was her husband's office manager, but I heard about her thoughts about making my office run on time, smoother and more efficient. She believed that I overtly disrespected her time, and that my habitual extreme tardiness was unacceptable from a patient's perspective. She informed me that she would not wait more than thirty minutes for any appointment with any healthcare provider, not even me. She made it clear that if she was not greeted and evaluated within thirty minutes of her appointment time, she would leave whatever office she was in. She had rules and she made sure that I knew what the rules were if she was to return to our office again. She then informed me that she had to leave our office immediately due to a family function.

We spent only five minutes exploring options for her son's care, who witnessed her tirade. He appeared to be immune to her bravado. Perhaps he had seen it before. At the close of our visit, she stood up and walked out the door. I made sure the results of her child's testing was in her hands before she left the building. The entire staff approached me after she left and apologized for her behavior. Unbeknownst to me, they had offered her several options about rescheduling before and after she arrived. My staff felt she was going to take a stand on the tardiness issue, so she waited quite a long time to give me a piece of her mind.

The last patient of the day did not hear all the verbal ruckus, he was in Olive Branch, Mississippi awaiting my call. She could have done the same but chose not to have a phone conversation about her son. It's been a long time since someone told me how to schedule and run my practice, especially a patient who is not familiar with how a general medical practice operates. It's different than an orthodontist's office. It appears they stay on time and never let anyone wait more than thirty minutes. Those who cannot be seen in her husband's office without disrupting his day get sent to the emergency department for evaluation, antibiotics and pain medications.

I suspect she will not understand the letter I sent her asking her to find another physician who can meet her needs as well as her children's. I established the Stone Institute in the year 2000. My behavior hasn't changed in almost seventeen years and I suspect neither has hers. It has never been my intention to disrespect anyone in anyway. She would be better off with a physician who understands time and schedules better than I: A doctor who can keep their wait times to less than thirty minutes for every patient every day. As people age, time becomes their most important commodity. I find that time is more important than money these days, even though time is said to be money.

I choose to share the rest of my time with those who appreciate it, no matter when I get to spend time with them, no matter how delayed I get caring for the infirmed.

Doc

Posted by Amanda Sanders at 9:08 AM
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