Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Waiting for the patient

Patients love complaining about doctors who make them wait ! It’s common to see patients waiting patiently while the doctor is taking his own sweet time , talking to a medical representative ; or seeing a VIP patient out of turn , causing his scheduled to go out of whack . Often the doctor gives an appointment when he knows he is not going to be in the clinic at that time ( because he is scheduled to be in another clinic at the other end of town !) ; and many doctors overbook , by giving many patients an appointment at exactly the same time , as a result of which patients have to be patient.
They also tend to get irritated and angry - and sometimes this resentment boils over ! I think this phenomenon is a reflection of poor time management - and means that the doctor doesn't respect his patient's time.

However, just like there is a problem with doctors who make patients wait , there is also a problem with patients who make doctors wait. This may be surprising , but is not uncommon - and this vexing problem is called " no-shows " in medical practise management jargon.

These are patients who treat doctor's  appointments a bit like restaurant bookings - and just like they book a table at a restaurant and then decide at the last minute not to turn up at all, they do this for clinical visits too. This can be extremely disruptive for the doctor . If he is a conscientious doctor who values his patient's time; and gives appointments and sticks to them, then if the patient doesn't turn up , this just ends up wasting 15 minutes of his life, which he could have used more productively seeing other patients.

Unfortunately , patients don't realize the damage they cause by not showing up for appointments , in spite of taking a confirmed appointment . If this starts happening , the doctor retaliates by overbooking, to make sure that even if some patients don't show , up his schedule and productivity don't get adversely affected. He then ends up penalising all his patients - and this is how a few bad apples cause harm to everyone !

This is a big problem in India, where we often don't have a very good sense of time and are not very respectful of punctuality . This creates a negative vicious cycle , because if the patient makes the doctor waits, the doctor in turn makes his patients wait. The patient then feels - what's the point of going on time, because my doctor will be running late and will be make wait anyways. He ends up not bothering to come on time, so the situation gets progressively worse .

The real tragedy is that it is careless patients who end up penalizing the punctual and careful doctors and patients. I wish there was an easy solution to this problem !

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