I've found the most frustrating part of dealing with health care, is being treated like a number, not a person. It begins innocently enough - "here, fill out forms x, y & z, then take them to Window B." So, you do. Then Window B asks you to have a seat, "they'll call you, shortly." 20 minutes and two tattered magazines later, you get to show your identification and insurance card, sign some release papers, and then again are asked to wait. When you try to inquire as to how much longer it will be, you're met with sarcasm and disdain. "They'll check, but it looks as though they're a little behind, so it shouldn't be more than 20 minutes or so." It hasn't occurred to anyone yet that you've already been there waiting for an hour, and the appointment you scheduled was well over 30 minutes ago. Still they have no answers for the delay. It's always some vague reference to being behind schedule. Are they ever on schedule?
If I'm waiting patiently. That is without causing a scene, then don't I deserve the right to ask reasonable and legitimate questions? And, if so, then why does the staff look at me as though I'd grown horns or a third eye in the center of my forehead? If they don't want patients to ask questions or be vocal, then they should attempt to communicate with them. Offering an apology now and then doesn't hurt either. We are, after all, the paying customer. A fact they are often too quick to forget. If they were in any other business, the thought of any customer waiting for more than 20 minutes is simply unheard of -- especially without offering profuse apologies, detailed explanations and often associated with generous discounts and/or freebies. But the health care industry feels no such compunction. They regularly eat up hours of our personal time without thought or care. You truly begin to feel very invisible!
Don't allow yourself to be taken in by such bullying tactics. If you are made to wait beyond your appointment time, ask why? And keep asking why and how long you are expected to wait. Ask if you can reschedule when they're having a more productive day. Or, if you can just have them ring you on your cell when they're ready, so you can go take care of a few errands? While I GUARANTEE you'll get some of the worst responses to these suggestions, you're not being unreasonable! Stand up for yourself and be prepared to walk out. Now, I know this seems a bit extreme. But, if more people became proactive instead of reactive towards how health care treats us, and the tremendous amount of waiting we're forced to endure, we would have a more streamlined system. Did you know that the appointment that you scheduled was also given to at least 5-8 other patients? They call it patient loading. I call it something else, but that's another blog story. This way they figure all patients arrive at varying times before the scheduled appointment time, and can be dealt with in the order that they arrive. That is if everything goes according to plan, which rarely happens. So, while you've taken yet more time away from your job, family, and other priorities, they want to jam you into an impossible appointment schedule. Just the math boggles the mind. One doctor seeing 5-8 patients every 15 minutes? That's less than 2 minutes each. It doesn't work, which is why you're in this holding pattern for over an hour.
Stand up for yourself and your time. Become visible! Ask when you check in, how long the wait will be. If they say 10 minutes, add at least 15 more onto that. If you've been waiting longer than 20 minutes, ask why and if you can reschedule. Now most staff members can be rude, busk, unprofessional, and argumentative. You should generally expect some form of frost in their tone and manner. Unfortunately, the sorry truth is they are overworked, overburdened with paperwork, and you're probably the 20th person today to infer they're not doing their job. And, that 's exactly how they see it.
Most of the blame for all you're complaining about can be lain at the door of the insurance companies and physician's groups. They create the environment that causes doctors to overbook patients on a daily basis. Add to that, all the incentives they're given to limit care to just seeing your Primary Care Physician, and you have the current situation. A mess without end.
The key to becoming visible is to become known to your doctor's staff. Some people use bribery - cookies, candy, etc., others engage in personal conversations with staff members, creating a "friend" environment, while still others gain attention in all the wrong ways. Now while I recommend that you stand up for yourself, a little self restraint never hurt anyone and may be to your advantage later on.. Please do keep in mind that these are the few people whom can become your greatest ally and asset or your worst nightmare and adversary. If you can make your point without pissing off your allies, then please do so. You should be commended as truly gifted. But if you are like the other 99.9% of us, take time to consider life from their prospective. A never ending parade of impatient, rude, busk, and sarcastic patients. They have zero authority over who gets seen when, or whom waits longer or not. But.....if you can get them on your side, say as a friend or mutual acquaintance, they can be a wealth of information. Regarding the best days and times to schedule appointments, or even better, the worst possible times you should avoid at all costs. Some have even managed to squeeze me in a slot that didn't actually exist, just so I didn't have to wait.
Just counting to ten and calming your own temper can be the huge asset in gaining visibility. You can still ask to reschedule, but without the anger and defensive manner, you're more likely to get a better time slot and a lot less waiting. It doesn't always work, especially when visiting the radiological or speciality doctors that you see only rarely. But a few wise tips can help. Ask when the best time is for the least of amount of waiting. Also, go prepared to wait. Bring a book, magazines, that unfinished crossword puzzle, or whatever makes the time pass more quickly for you. Anything that distracts you from the amount of time you're wasting is great. So find something productive to do with your waiting time. With all these electronic gadgets in pocket size, I'd almost bet you could get the same amount of work done in the waiting room as you normally would at work.
My mission although I didn't sign up for, is to endure all those crazy incidents you hear about from friends and coworkers. You know, those ones about the person who spent 15 hours in the waiting room at some hospital emergency ward. Or, even better, the one where this person sold health care policies only to find themself fighting for their life with the healthcare company just months before had been singing their praises. How's that for irony. Well, we all know the sob stories. I'll try to keep those to a minimum, and only when absolutely necessary for a point, but this is about all those crazy inconveniences that the healthcare industry as a whole puts the average person though on a daily, no hourly, basis, without thought, care or much consideration whatsoever. It's shameful. Why is my time and effort worth so little, especially when I'm paying you to provide a service to me. Why then is it necessary to fight tooth and nail just to get what I paid for? Is anybody listening? Well I certainly am listening, and screaming at the top of my lungs to anyone who'll listen to me. We need a grass roots campaign started like yesterday. We need someone whose on our side of the argument for once. Help out with your own stories and comments. Or, just try to keep me from going to far up on my soapbox. I truly hope I can help someone, open people's eyes to the craziness, and maybe make some small change in how heathcare treats us!