Thoughts on fixing the patient waiting game

May 20, 2015 in Medical Technology

Recently a friend of mine posted this note on Facebook:

Waited for fifty minutes today to see my doctor before walking out due to time constraints. Thought it would have been nice to tell me when I first walked in how long the wait time was going to be. Is this just the expectation now with doctors – that they are running behind and you’ll wait however long you have to?

We’ve become a society that is used to getting everything immediately: our e-mails, our messages, our favorite songs and movies. Not surprisingly, we get annoyed when we do have to wait to get a table at a restaurant, for a repair person to show up at our house – or for our turn to see the doctor.

[See also: Patient view: Don't you know who I am?]

Sometimes waiting is unavoidable and we simply have to accept it as an inconvenient truth. As my friend noted, however, if you’re going to be made to wait, it’s nice to be told as soon as possible.

Last weekend I moved. Because I work from home, Internet service is vital so I had scheduled an installation with ATT well in advance. I was told the technician would arrive on the 15th between 9 and 11 a.m. and had received a couple of emails and texts confirming the times.

On the 15th I went to the new hours and waited. After an hour and half the technician had not appeared, so I went online to check his status. Imagine my fury when I see a revised installation date – two and a half weeks into the future.

I promptly raised holy heck with anyone who would listen. No one could explain to me why the date got changed, nor why I hadn’t been notified, though everyone agreed there had been a failure with some sort of automated process. After wasting a few hours on the phone, ATT rescheduled me for the next morning.

[See also: What does 'patient engagement' really mean?]

Thankfully the installation was completed with no further drama. As the technician was leaving, he told me to expect someone from ATT to contact me and ask how he did. He gave me a big smile and said it would be great if I gave him all “10s.”

Obviously ATT rewards its technicians based on customer satisfaction. I would bet money that ATT’s scheduling and communications team aren’t similarly compensated. In fact, I’m looking forward to participating in their satisfaction survey so I can give the scheduling people a zero for their part of the process. Meanwhile, I am happy to give the smiling technician a 10.

Tying compensation to satisfaction is a brilliant concept, not just for motivating high performance, but also for giving customers some small sense of power when things go really well or really poorly. Based on my friend’s recent experience, I’m pretty confident that her doctor’s compensation is not tied to patient satisfaction.

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