Long Appointment Wait Time, Your Horrible Parking Lot and Your Mediocre Front Desk: Your New Patients’ Experience
I am back on my “Patient Access” soapbox as a result of a recent visit to your private practice in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I had a fairly significant medical concern and wanted to get to a specialist as quickly as possible in the event I needed treatment. Knowing that I was seeking an appointment as a new patient in a high demand medical specialty area, I figured it would be weeks or even a month or more before I would secure an appointment, so I got to work right away. Like most patients, I got on the Internet and started to review specialists in my area; trying to find a physician that was well qualified, accepted my health insurance and would minimize my drive time so that I didn’t have be away from the office for hours. I chose you, a qualified physician that had a new patient appointment available in twenty-seven days. Twenty-seven days. I was actually delighted that I was going to be examined by a high demand specialist in under a month. Delighted! What does this say about physician access for some specialists? Have we lowered our expectations so much that getting an appointment four weeks from the date of request is considered acceptable? It’s a question that won’t be solved as I write this blog, but it is food for thought.
Twenty-seven days later, I arrived for my 10am appointment. It was 9:30am when I arrived and your parking lot was completely full. Cars were double parked, and your underground lot was impossible to navigate with a Mini-Cooper, let alone the Chevy Tahoe I was driving. I had to park across the street and up two blocks risking a ticket as I was not doing business at this location. I was frustrated and five minutes late for my visit when I opened the door to your office. When I approached the front desk to provide my name and an apology for being late; I was greeted with silence. Not a “Good Morning”, not a “What is Your Name”, not a word. I wondered if I chose not to say anything upon arrival if the sour woman at the window would have acknowledged me at all. She proceeded to have conversations with her equally sour colleagues behind the window while she grabbed my insurance card and personal identification. The only words spoken to me were to ask for my $40 dollar copay. Not even a “Thank You” upon payment, was uttered. I was completely unsatisfied, to say the least and was silently hoping to receive a patient satisfaction survey in the mail.
To be completely objective, I was pleasantly surprised that I waited only five minutes before being escorted to an exam room and even more pleased when you arrived to see me less than five minutes later. Your exam was thorough and you were on your game. What a shame that so many barriers were put up before I even had the chance to meet you.
Now here’s the question. Was the wait, aggravation and less than courteous support staff worth it? Would speaking to the specialist about her access problems help? Would anything actually change? Should I start again with a new provider that has better access to care and a friendlier staff? Should I drive further away and wait longer to have a better experience? The answers to these questions are very personal and real for patients. Access to care is a serious issue that can and will determine the success of your practice. Look at the little things. They are larger than life for the patients on the other side of the window.