Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Call Me Back When.....

I was reading our neighborhood tabloid the other day and I was struck by one of the advertisements: it was for a doctor's practice. There was his photo, a distinguished looking gentleman, and the ad, like every other doc's ad, listed his virtues. I wish I could find it so I could put a direct quote. I called a neighbor to ask if he had the paper and he suggested I look on-line, to which I replied, "I want one of the ads for a blog post." Funny, my neighbor hung up quickly. I contemplated rummaging through our re-cycling, already outside, in the dark, if it's still there it's soaked no doubt-- Anything for the Blog. Instead, I'll wing it.

So the doc's ad began with the bullet-point claim that he Returns Phone Calls Promptly. Gray hair, years of practice, and that's the first thing he wants to proclaim about his professional persona. The second bullet point contends that he offers Same Day Appointments. After those two sales points, he goes on to mention that he has 25 years of experience and an impressive list of educational and academic appointments. His picture reveals that he sports a friendly smile.

It seems like a funny statement that a distinguished doc is advertising that he returns his phone calls and offers Same Day appointments, as if this is a bonus. Shouldn't everyone return their calls or at least have them screened, prioritized, dealt with in some way, even if simply to have a nurse say "That sounds important, why don't you come in to see the doctor?" And same day appointments: Pediatricians see kids the same day, why is it so hard to find an adult doc who does the same. Why are these things Bonuses? And if you're wondering why such a doc needs to advertise, your guess is as good as mine, but the ad said nothing about insurance participation and I'd bet he's running a concierge, fee-for-service practice.

I suppose we've had this discussion in a variety of ways on Shrink Rap already-- we've talked about emergency
call-back policies, and this past weekend I commented that I get annoyed with friends who don't return my calls in Sunday Morning: Coffee & The New York Times . Actually, it's worse than that-- I really don't maintain close friendships with people who don't return my calls; most of my friends are conscientious people who get back to me promptly. And they are all very busy people.

What about professionally? What's reasonable in terms of having a doc return a non-emergent call? For me, I return almost every call the same day, only rarely the next day. I may wait until Sunday night or Monday for a weekend call that is clearly not urgent, say an appointment to be rescheduled, as I assume no one expects such things to be dealt with on a Saturday. Honestly, though, it's not about great patient care, it's not so I stick it as a bullet-point as an ad, it's not because I'm so devoted. Simply put, I return calls promptly because I like to keep my mental To-Do List as clear as possible, it's about not having this nagging thing to remember in the back of my brain.

But it's nice to know that if I ever do need a brownie point on my shrink score-card, this one's a shoe-in.


Rach said...

This doc sounds great. Particularly after I just spent the afternoon dealing with my own shrink, who double booked me and then rescheduled me.

BTW, Dinah, as a private practitioner, have you ever double booked?

Dinah said...

Part of being this compulsive is that I don't usually make scheduling mistakes. During a Palm Pilot fritz, I once double booked. The patient I wasn't expecting had a card where I'd written down the appointment, I apologized and I think one of them was okay with coming back later. Only time.
I have had two patients show up at once (someone else's confusion) and I hate it when that happens. Probably 4 times over the years, I've stumbled into someone in my waiting room who I wasn't expecting. Mostly, I wing it and pretend that of course I was expecting them. If I can't, I'm left to apologize. People have generally forgiven me.

Clink just sends them back to their cells with extra bread and water for their trouble.

Roy--well, I'll let him answer himself, but he's the flightiest of our crew, I'd bet he's double-booked, run late, forgotten his head under the floor boards, but he's such a gentle soul (not to mention goofy, nerdy, loveable, and mildly entertaining) that I can't imagine anyone could get very upset with him.

Rach said...

LOL Dinah. Thanks for responding to the question. I'm almost positive that the reason for this double booking was due to sheer exhaustion and lack of resources on the part of my shrink. Nonetheless, it doesn't change how ridiculously upset I was about the whole thing.

This is just one instance where the canadian health care system has failed patients - I'm sure there's thousands of other examples, but sheer negligence (although not causing bodily harm - maybe some psychic pain though) certainly doesn't help any physician's cause.

If my shrink had sent me home with bread and water... well maybe that would have helped things out a little (bread's a little scarce around here since we're eating matzah instead this week... but that's for another post)

ClinkShrink said...

At one facility we routinely overbook because at least a third of my guys don't show for their appointments. Yesterday was commissary day so three-fourths of them didn't show. Theoretically that's an infraction that they could get sanctioned for, but it's not enforced. (And no we don't charge for no-shows---or for anything for that matter!).

On a different note---a co-worker of mine is expecting a first child in a few weeks. They're naming it Max. I kept a straight face and said, "Oh, that's a great name!" (true) while picturing your dog in a baby bonnett.

And with regard to Roy adjectives, I'd add endlessly patient. God knows how he puts up with both of us. Thanks for all the work on the podcasts Roy. Haven't had time to play with Audacity yet but it's on my schedule for tomorrow night.

Midwife with a Knife said...

Dinah: I was thinking about this the other day (actually thinking about it on my blog). I give patients my cell phone number, and when I give it to them, I always tell them, "I don't always have my cellphone on, but I always return calls within 24 hours." Until roy commented about it, I never realized that this could be the basis of a boutique practice.