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Customer Service at My Doctor’s Office – What?!

Following is an intriguing article written by Casey Quinlan about doctor appointments.  It seems like an efficient idea – what do yhou think?

I’ll state here that I have stellar doctors and my primary Dr. Karen Eady, Bremerton and pulmonary Dr. Christopher Goss, University of Washington Medical Center are without peer.   I know my medical care health is in good hands and know how lucky I am.

I think the following article “I have a dream” is an interesting concept.   What do you think?
All I Want for Christmas Is Customer Service at My Doctor’s Office
December 24th, 2010
By Casey Quinlan. I have this dream. It’s about how, when I make an appointment to see my doctor – my primary care physician – the process is easy, honors my time as much as it does my doctor’s, and winds up running smoothly for both parties.
The dream starts this way: I realize it’s time for my annual physical, or any other usual-suspects periodic visit to my PCP. I open up my browser, point it to my doctor’s website, and log in to the secure patient portal. The one where I can see all my prescriptions, my personal health record, make an appointment (using the handy calendar function), request a prescription refill, ask the nurse or doctor a question via email, or download a PDF of my health record.
In my dream, using the handy scheduling function in the portal, I select a date and time for my appointment. The portal auto-populates that date and time with my name and insurance/contact information, since I logged in and it knows who I am. The system asks me if any information has changed. I click “no”. If I click “yes,” the next screen asks me to make the changes, and “submit”.
I select “annual physical” from the list of appointment types. I enter any information I need to related to this appointment request (i.e. “Doctor, I have this pain…”). Then I click “submit” and the system sends me a confirmation email or text (I picked which one I prefer when I set up my profile on the portal). It also schedules me for a blood draw in the week prior to the appointment, sending me a confirmation for a walk-in at the lab.
The scene in my dream shifts to the day of my doctor’s appointment. I’m scheduled to be seen at 11:00am. I get a text at 10:00am – or an email, whichever I selected when setting up my portal profile – saying that the doctor’s running about 30 minutes behind. I can either come in at 11:30am, or select one of the alternate appointment times in the text/email and be re-scheduled.
I select 11:30am, and I arrive a few minutes before that time. Signing in involves scanning a key tag – just like the one you get from your favorite supermarket – which lets everyone in the practice, from the receptionist to the doctor, know that I’m there, and on time.
If the administrative staff needs to talk to me for any reason, they’ll see me on their screen (usually because, in the day-before review, they checked the “confirm insurance details” or “update pharmacy info” or “collect co-pay” radio button) and invite me to have a private conversation. By using my first name only. No sign-in sheet (HIPAA violation) or yodeling my full name across a crowded waiting room (HIPAA violation).
By the way, in my dream the co-pay is collected by the system without having to get me or the staff involved. I’ve given the practice my credit/debit card number, and signed a consent form to allow automatic collection of my payment when I scan my key tag.
I take a seat in the waiting room…for about 5 minutes. I’m called – first name only – by the nurse, who takes me back to an exam room. I scan my key tag again in the room, and s/he checks my blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate using equipment tied into the practice’s IT network. Since my key tag was scanned, the readings are loaded into my record instantly.
S/he and I chat for a minute or two, and then I’m left alone to disrobe. The doctor arrives minutes later, and proceeds with my exam. S/he enters information on an iPad, but spends most of the time talking to me about how I’m feeling lately, the results from my blood work, what my exercise program is these days, how about those Giants/Redskins/Bears/whoever, and if I’ve had any meds side-effects that I haven’t mentioned.
The doctor tells me that my blood work shows everything’s A-OK, all my numbers look good. I’m up a few pounds, time to hit the gym a little harder to stop midriff-creep in its tracks. (It’s a dream, but it could become a nightmare.)
Face time. Real face time. Only about 10 minutes, yet I feel like I’ve been listened to, and engaged with, by my doctor. I feel like I’m a customer, not a meat-puppet on a conveyor belt.
Ok, I’m awake now. In a world where all of the technology tools to turn my dream into reality exist…but aren’t being used. Why not? Usually, I hear “they’re too expensive” or, my personal favorite, “my staff doesn’t like computers.”

Here’s the choice: either bring your staff up to speed or see your revenues shrink. If a practice uses patient-facing technology well, they’re in a good position for better revenue cycle management. If the practice is looking to move some of its patient panel to a subscription/concierge model, this dream MUST become reality.
It’s time for some technology-enabled customer service in primary care. That’s my dream, and I’m sticking’ to it!

More later… Sharon O’Hara

2 thoughts on “Customer Service at My Doctor’s Office – What?!

  1. I’ve had dreams too. I usually can tell the difference between them and reality though. It’s pretty amusing that she whines about HIPAA violations, while remaining blithely unaware of the potential of HIPAA violations and serious security problems in her ‘dream’.

  2. Thanks for helping spread the word, Sharon!

    And Derek, as a healthcare communication consultant, I’m not at all unaware – blithely or otherwise – about HIPAA compliance rules. The dream above could be effected without compromising one bit/byte of personal health information. The banking and financial services industry does it every day, as do every big retailer across the US.

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