Friday, September 23, 2011

Doctors Need to Learn Customer Service

I'll start by apologizing for being long-winded and whiny, but I need to vent. I have been dealing with random hair issues on and off since I was a teenager, and they have flared up over the past year. Since it didn't work itself out, I figured it was time to see a doctor to make sure there weren't any underlying issues. Thinking I needed a referral (which it turns out I didn't, but oh well), I went to my primary care physician. Now I am bad about going to the doctors, and I hadn't had blood work in too many years (and I know the importance of knowing your numbers - I do at least track my blood pressure). It was a big step for me to make the appointment, but I did it.

My doctor did have blood work done and gave me a referral to a dermatologist. He gave me the choice of 2 dermatologists - one would take a few months to get into and the other was a little rough around the edges, but he would be able to treat me sooner and my doctor had faith he would do a good job, so I decided to go with the second doctor.

At this point, I was feeling good about my effort to at least go to the doctor, and I felt optimistic that maybe I would be able to get some help. And then it all went downhill... I told my mom about the dermatologist I was going to, and she groaned and stated she didn't like him when she saw him. Now this should have been a real red flag for me - my mom and I are pretty easy going and have similar tolerance levels for people. Still, I moved forward and had an appointment.

My primary asked me to call him back in 4-5 days for the results of my blood work. Tip #1 for doctors - you should take the initiative to call your patients with this info when you receive it and not expect them to have to call you. Anyways - I called 4 business days later and the receptionist told me the doctor wasn't in - please call back the next day. Again, my number should have been written down and the doctor should have called me, but oh well. At this point I'm still feeling optimistic...

The next day, I call my doctor, and the receptionist asks me to "please hold" and places me on hold - for 12 minutes (without any on hold music, so I had to keep checking that I hadn't accidentally hung up). She then returns and asks why I'm calling - I give her my name and tell her I am calling for blood work results. "OK, please hold for a moment..." 15 minutes later I hang up the phone and try to call her back to give her my number to have the doctor call me when he is available. When she answers she doesn't ask who I am, why I am calling, or any of that - she says "Can you please hold?" and, without waiting for an answer to her question, puts me back on hold - so I hung up again. I again stand by the idea that my number should have been taken and the doctor should have called me back when he was available. What if I had serious symptoms? What if something was wrong? Isn't your doctor supposed to care about you and your time? Isn't his staff supposed to care?

So about 20 minutes later, my mom calls to tell me the doctor just called her with results (which they couldn't give her, because she is not me). Now about a year ago, I dealt with some serious trauma, so I was living at my parents house for a month, but I know they have my cell phone number. If they had asked for it the first 3 times I called, this never would have happened. So, I call them back (again), and my favorite receptionist answers. I explain she called the wrong number, so she says "We should update that" - when I give her my number, she states "Oh, that is the number we have in the computer, I must have gotten the other number from an old chart" (grrrr) "Please hold and I'll get the doctor for you..." (Grrrr again) - 15 minutes of silent on hold, I hang up. The doctor never called me back - I had to call him another day for the results (which were all good, so at least there is happy news there).

I know I'm being long winded, but I'm not done. Now that I know my thyroid is all good and my numbers are good, I am prepared for the dermatologist appointment, still feeling optimistic. I went yesterday, and I was not impressed. The initial office staff was good, but when I got back into the exam room, the doctor entered without knocking, asked a rapid fire set of questions, responded to my answers by talking medical speak to the assistant with him, who was entering it in the computer, told me things I already knew about my hair, and decided I needed monthly cortisone shots in my scalp... Ouch! OK, this is fine - I can handle this. He then told me, again, things I already knew about my hair and proceeded to prick me with needles (at this point, he thought he would start asking about my work and me as a person - too late!) It hurt, and I really disliked him, and I was feeling really disheartened by the whole thing, and I just wanted to cry. He left by saying "see you in 4 weeks" (no "have a nice day" "it was nice meeting you" or even "thanks for coming in, we can help you with this"). I doubt he even remembers me today - he never took any time to get to know who I was beyond my hair issues.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a super emotional person, and I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. I know I had visible tears in my eyes, but the assistant in the office just said "exit is to the left." I feel like a more appropriate answer would have been "we can help with this, take a moment to relax and then you can head out to check out. The door is on your left." Basic courtesy is the start of customer service, and, again, doctors and their staff are supposed to care about their patients...

The receptionist didn't acknowledge my level of distraught either - she just made my appointment for 4 weeks later and handed me my receipt (they had taken payment before I even saw the doctor). I then proceeded to walk to my car and cry for most of the 45 minute ride back to work. Needless to say, I am calling to cancel the follow up appointment in four weeks and I will never go back to that office again.

Anyone know of a good doctor and/or dermatologist I could go see?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How do I help?

It's been a wild ride here in upstate NY. The weather has been unpredictable, and people's lives have been changed forever. Hurricane Irene caused flooding, and now we are dealing with rivers and creeks rising again due to the rain we have gotten today. I cannot even fathom what the people are dealing with who have lost their homes, livelihoods, and other possessions that are irreplaceable. How can we help? How can we comfort them? What can we do?

There are a lot of different ways we can help, and the real issue is how do we find what is right for each individual? I'll admit, I am afraid to venture to the flood ravished areas, and I'm not sure how effective I would be volunteering directly there. Maybe that makes me a coward; maybe it makes me a realist; it definitely makes me a person who refuses to go somewhere just to see the damage. The idea that mother nature can have that power, and that people are helpless at this time, is a bit too much for me to handle. Still, I need to do something. I am donating food and other goods where I can. I'm collecting for others to donate for them. Still, we need to band together and help these victims. We need to rebuild like the strong American people we are. I'm sure the people effected will do just that; I just hope they get a break soon to start rebuilding.