Thursday, August 02, 2012

Is a very busy doctor a better doctor ?

Many doctors take pride in how busy they are. Sometimes I think this is a perverse misplaced pride , because all their busy ness just ends up causing their patients to have to wait for ever and ever , in order to see them, resulting in unhappy, impatient patients. Even worse, this causes doctors to have frayed tempers  as well , because they know they have a waiting room full of upset patients , who have been waiting hours to see them !

Many doctors believe that having a full waiting room , with a large number of patients who have had to wait hours in order to see them , is a sign that they have finally arrived . Their idea of a successful doctor is one who has lots of patients who are willing to wait patiently in order to see him, as compared to his colleagues, because he is so much better. ( Many patients believe this as well !)

While this may be a major ego boost, for the doctor, this is actually a sign of a doctor who has poor time management skills ; and who does not respect his patients enough. A good doctor learns to manage his time, and does not routinely keep his patients waiting for no good rhyme or reason.

So  why do some doctors have such overfull waiting rooms? Is it because they are really so much better than the rest of the other doctors that patient start clamoring in order to see them? While this may be true for a few “ superstars” , the real reason is likely to be very different.

For one, many doctors are very reluctant to refuse to see patients. Some are scared that if they do not give the patient an appointment as and when he wants one, the patient will go to off to some other doctor , and they may end up losing all their patients. This is why they will say yes to each and every patient who comes to them, even if they are unscheduled walk ins.  While this is great because it allows patients to be seen quickly, It also means that lots of other patients have to end up waiting for long periods of time.

Lots of doctors are busy because they waste a lot of time doing unproductive things. Thus, some doctors will flit from hospital to hospital and travel from one clinic to another, right from one end of the city to another , which means they will often end up spending two or three hours stuck in traffic , just commuting, rather than seeing patients . This is a very unproductive use of their time, which means that the amount of time which they can devote to seeing patients is cut down considerably.

Rather than try to take up as many hospital attachments as possible ( in order to block the competition !) ; or try to open as many different clinics in different parts of the city as possible, it makes much more sense for doctors to focus on just one clinic. This will allow them to improve their productivity and efficiency , and will also ensure that patients are confident that when they do come to the clinic, they will find the doctor there, rather than in transit from clinic Y to clinic X.

The reason doctors start clinics in multiple areas is that they want to be close to where their patients are. They are worried that patients will not commute long distances in order to see them. Now while this may be true , it makes much more sense for doctors to focus on their core competence , and do an outstanding job with a few patients, rather than try to attract lots of patients , and mess them all up.

Doctors also need to leverage technology , so that they can then reach out to many more patients, without having to travel to where the patient is . Thus, using websites , videoconferencing and telemedicine , it's possible for a doctor sitting in one clinic to provide services to patients , wherever they may be !

It does require a lot of confidence in order to take this approach , and it's possible that there will be times when the doctor has a lot of free time, because there are not many patients to see. However, rather than feel threatened or insecure , a clever doctor can actually use this downtime to do interesting stuff, such as blogging or tweeting, in order to reach out to more patients !

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1 comment:

  1. Are you a superstar ? : ) Have a busy day, Dr!


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