Leaving is Sometimes the Only Way to Send a Message

It was one of those days. You have a lot of work to get through and you have everything slotted, prioritized, sorted, itemized, allocated, dissected, trisected, and falling into place quite nicely. Like a well-oiled machine. Then it happens: The one appointment in your day where you’re kept waiting, waiting, and waiting some more. It happened to me today.

For those of us who believe in and rely on schedules and priorities to make our lives flow smoothly, we have no room or patience for those who abuse our valuable time. My week was going very well, meetings held, appointments kept, errands accomplished; generally, everything was flowing as it should until a medical appointment made me stop.

I won’t use the doctor’s name, but he is an ophthalmologist (try saying that three times fast without tripping over your tongue). My appointment was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and I was told that I would need a driver, since my eyes will be dilated (kind of like eyes on drugs, but without the high). No problem. I arranged for a driver and arrived for my appointment at 1:15 p.m. I always like to be early instead of running in last minute.

There were a couple of people in the waiting room when I arrived, so I took a seat and waited. And waited. And waited. At 2:00 p.m., I went to the receptionist and asked politely if I’ll be seeing the doctor soon, given that my appointment was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. She wasn’t sure, but she assured me that it wouldn’t be too much longer.

A few minutes after 2:00 p.m., a nice young lady called my name and took me to a room where we spent about 10 minutes running some eye tests. Then it was down the hall where I was asked to wait in another waiting area because no exam room was available.

At 2:30, I was taken into an exam room and told that the doctor will be in shortly. I’m not sure what “shortly” means to her, but to me it means within about five minutes, with a stretch, maybe 10 minutes. Again, I waited, somewhat patiently, but at 2:50, I walked out of the exam room to the receptionist’s station and told her I was leaving because I felt it was disrespectful of my time to be asked to an appointment at 1:30 and have to wait almost 90 minutes with no doctor in sight. In my book, it just doesn’t work that way.

I vowed to myself to never return to that clinic, but a happy footnote caught me by surprise. That evening, the doctor in question telephoned and apologized for my wait. Ironically, his process and workflow predicament got snagged during my appointment time and as the Queen of Lean, I didn’t let him off the hook that easily.

Simple fixes like ensuring reception staff communicates correct information both pre and during appointment times will go a long way to improving customer (pateint) relationships. Now we’ll just need to work on helping the doctor process his patients more efficiently. The result will be a win-win for all with no accumulated patient backlog. Happy patients. Happy doctor. Happy staff. Who can argue with that?


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