Gina Kolata’s NY Times article today about rude and indifferent physicians certainly rings true with most of us.
Alongside those crack troops at the Division of Motor Vehicles, I cannot think of another group of professionals who care less about customer service. Long waits, callous or rude attitudes and a total lack of concern on the part of most docs has punctuated many of my visits over the years.
Which is why Dr. Ellen Mellow is such an exception to the rule. Since being referred to this NYC-based internal medicine specialist, I never cease to be amazed at the time and care she provides. Dr. Mellow knows exactly what my past history is, and goes above and beyond to discuss different approaches to solving whatever ails me at the moment. She also takes the time to ask about people I’ve referred to her, wanting to know how they’re faring, etc.
Compare that, if you will, with the statistic in Kolata’s article stating that most patients have 18 seconds to talk about their worries, questions, etc., before their doc will cut them off and move on to the next patient.
Sadly, with too many patients and too few docs, there isn’t much incentive for doctors to start behaving better. But there may be relief in sight. In California, eight major health insurers have a new program in which they divide $30 million among 35,000 physicians depending upon how their patients rate them. Hopefully, that will get their attention.
As for Dr. Mellow, if she was incentivized based upon her patient caring, she’d be living in the same ultra upscale neighborhoods as T.O. and some of those other pampered sports superstars.
Just as doctors are taking courses on bedside manners, someone should start semminars on how to be more assertive with doctors. Learn how to ask the doctor for what you want and need. How to insist on more time when you need to know things about your very life. If enough people begin to become stronger in doctors’ offices, they will soon learn that they better assign more time for each patient or, at best, will begin to lose patients, at worse, will be sued.
It’s nice to hear that actions are being taken to improve the customer service in the health care profession. But isn’t it sad that insurers are handing out money as a reward for good behavior? Doctors shouldn’t have to be “bribed.” I would think a physician’s incentive would be the reward of taking good care of someone else…isn’t that why they become doctors in the first place?