In my experience as a patient and as a family member of patients, I’d have to say that the healthcare industry has the absolute worst customer service there is.
It’s crazy! If I need to make an appointment with my primary care physician, I can’t do it online. I MUST call them “during normal business hours” which is a three hour window in the morning and a three hour window in the afternoon weekdays only. No, you cannot call them before 9:00 am. No, you can’t call them when they are on a lunch break.
And when you do call, there’s no way you can actually speak with the doctor. All they will do is grant an appointment.
And don’t even get me started about after appointment service. Typically, they give you a prescription and send you on your way with no information at all. Sure, you can read the ten page legalese that comes with the pills, but that’s not helpful. My questions like “Can I exercise when I take this medication” isn’t included because there are so many warnings that the various government agencies require.
I recall a few years ago when I injured my leg and needed to go to physical therapy. The therapist wanted me to do exercises at home between sessions.
So how did he “help” me to learn the exercises? Well, he demonstrated once, had me do them once and then gave me a one-page handout that was a series of stick figure drawings of a person doing the exercises. The copy itself was terrible quality, probably a hundredth generation reproduction.
Got a question about the exercise? Tough! You have to wait till the next appointment to ask.
Clinicians working within the system
Don't get me wrong. I like my primary care physician. I especially like the nurse practitioner I regularly see. They care about patients and do the bast they can within the system they work in.
I’m not sure why healthcare is so awful at how they treat customers. Is it because doctors, with their fancy degrees, are so revered that we can’t insist on better service? Is it something related to the American healthcare system that means doctors have no incentive to take care of people properly? I’m not sure of the underlying reasons, but there is no doubt that in my case, the experience has been horrible.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is certainly possible for doctors to pioneer great customer service in healthcare.
Why not share content with patients in secure HIPPA compliant web sites? Why not point patients to videos and blog posts and articles on the web that will help them?
The good news is I've found some examples of this and will share in future blog posts.