On August 28 I posted here the story of horrible service in a medical practice when I was trying to change an appointment. That changed appointment finally occurred yesterday, or almost did. These people deserve the Dumb-Ass Stupid Management Award of the Month, with a tin Caduceus.
I showed up at Miriam Hospital in Providence to visit University Dermatology for my annual checkup. That medical practice is owned by a group of physicians. My appointment was for 10:15 and I pulled up to the valet at 10:00, and saw my dermatologist walk past me. I said, “Good morning,” but she seemed distracted and uninterested, and we took the same elevator to the second floor.
It took me ten minutes to check in while several of us just waited for the lone woman on the job to compete a raft of paperwork. During that time, patient files with names on them—including mine—were clearly visible on her desk for anyone to see. I was finally checked in and took a seat at 10:15, expecting to be called quickly. At 10:30, there was nothing happening, so I asked someone what the delay was. I was told to go to another window as a man said, “Let me know what you find, I have a 10 o’clock appointment.”
But how could that be, if the doctor walked in at 10?
I returned to the same paper-bound woman and she agreed to make a call, during which she found I’d have to wait at least another 30-40 minutes. I told her that wasn’t going to happen. Apparently, either the doctor was very late arriving or the practice simply books far too many people to meet any kind of promised schedule. She had at least six patients backed up in various rooms at 10:30 before my college with the 10 am appointment.
This is a practice where the women in Rhode Island Hospital, their other site, often eat while they are talking to you, or chat among themselves while people wait to check in or out. There is only one woman in Miriam handling the chaos, and she’s clearly overwhelmed. But this is medicine from the “old school”: We’re the ones whose time is important, and you can just wait until we’re good and ready.
I asked a dermatologist once what attracted her to that specialty. She said, “There are no emergency calls in the middle of the night.” That seems a strange criterion to choose your role in medicine. It also seems that there isn’t exactly great urgency during the day, either.
© Alan Weiss 2014
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