Monday, January 31, 2011

Examine THIS.

I wasn't going to post today, because I had an appointment for a routine checkup with my ear/nose/throat guy this morning. It was supposed to be a routine five-minute exam.

But when I'd been sitting in the waiting room for nearly an hour past my scheduled appointment time and I got up to find out why, I was told it was because the doctor had just come back from being on vacation and was running behind because he was double-booked.

And that just made me madder. I mean, I don't begrudge the man his vacation. And the time they were running late because he'd had to do emergency surgery that morning, that was understandable. But who the fuck decided that double-booking was a good idea? How does that even make sense? Are they often sitting around, twiddling their thumbs and thinking, "Boy, I bet we could handle twice as many patients as this!" I'm thinking, given how crowded the waiting room is on a day-to-day basis, probably not.

Especially not in the winter, when their younger patients are picking up colds and developing ear and sinus infections, right?

Argh. And if I'd come in an hour late and missed the appointment, they'd have sent me home and charged me for it anyway.

It's not like this is the only doctor who does this to me, either. Gods, our pediatrician always runs at least half an hour behind schedule, if not more. My OB/GYN usually gets me into the exam room close to on-time, but then I sit there for a good twenty minutes (wearing nothing but a paper napkin and socks -- it's a hot look; watch the Paris and Milan runways for it soon!) before the doctor comes in. (Kudos are due for my chiropractor, who not only almost never makes me wait, but keeps coffee and cookies in the waiting room for those rare occasions when I do get stuck out there.)

When I stomped back to my seat, too pissed off to continue reading, my brain started to put together a measurement plan, for the purposes of -- and this is how I know I've well and truly drunk the QA Kool-Aid -- causal analysis and process improvement. It got pretty detailed, there in my head: how long do patients usually sit in the waiting room past their appointment time? How long between when they're brought to an exam room and when they see the doctor? How much time does the doctor spend with them?

And other questions: Are patients informed of unusual delays and given a chance to reschedule? (They knew when I checked in that they were running more than an hour behind schedule. If they'd told me that right off, I might've rescheduled for another day, which would've reduced my level of irritation and helped their schedule deficit. But by the time an hour had passed, I'd invested way too much in it to reschedule.) How much does the doctor like to chat? (My GP loves to just shoot the breeze -- he's got a fantastic "bedside" manner, but it results in lousy waiting times.) How much flex time is built into the schedule to handle drop-in appointments and emergency calls? And how does the office handle especially long delays?

I swear, part of me wants to quit my job and become a process improvement consultant for doctors' offices. I couldn't possibly make things any worse.

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