Reversing the Roles: Would You See You? – Part 1
In response to an interview posted here a few weeks back, I received an email from a concerned parent. The tone of the email was very kind and complimentary as it shared the trials and tribulations of the writer’s son who had recently been through Vision Therapy. Included in the correspondence was a riveting question, one which all of us in patient care should ponder, at least for a few minutes a day.
If your child were struggling with their vision, would you take them to see you?
This is a really, really good question.
My knee-jerk reaction, as I suppose it would be for most of us, was yes. Absolutely. I’m comfortable in my skills and have plenty of experience, I work in a practice that supports learning and expansion of techniques, and my doctor is always supportive when therapy becomes turbulent for one reason or another. Our office provides quality services and changes lives. So yes, I would bring my kids here.
Seems like a no-brainer, right?
Not so fast.
As an insider, my perception of what occurs in our office is rather unimportant, by comparison. It’s the patient’s perspective that we need to be concerned with. They are, after all, the reason I have a job.
I recently visited a gastroenterologist’s clinic for a procedure consultation as I am at high risk for Barrett’s esophagus. About once every five years it’s recommended that I have my esophagus scoped to monitor things as Barrett’s is considered pre-cancerous. The procedure involves partial anesthesia which dampens the reflexes, as a small tube with a camera on the end is shoved through my nose and down my throat towards my stomach. The staff takes pictures of my insides, make a few stupid jokes about what I ate recently, and the tube is removed. It lasts 45 minutes at the most, which for me is about three hours too long. Sounds fun, right?
The doctor I visited is nationally known and came highly recommended by several sources. Since he seems to be cutting edge and able to help several in my position, part of me was hoping for some new medical miracle which allows him to gather information without invading my personal space. Here’s to hoping.
Needless to say I dread these visits, so perhaps I am a little hyper-sensitive. The staff at the doctor’s office were abrasive on the phone and even more so in person. My appointment was during the lunch hour to accommodate my work schedule but it was clear that they found my presence quite unaccommodating. Their clothing seemed better suited for the gym than a doctor’s office as I was weighed, hurried into a cold and poorly lit room that was painted infirmary green (aka sea foam green), and with a slam of the door informed the doctor was running late. As I waited patiently I could overhear the staff was discussing Tequila shots, their antics from last Saturday night, patients they found annoying, and making snide comments about people I assume are current or past employees. The longer I sat there listening, the more uncomfortable I became with this office – and I hadn’t even met the doctor yet.
As the doctor entered my room some 25 minutes later, the staff and their impromptu party next door quickly disbursed, undoubtedly aware that the master of the house was within earshot. After my time with the doctor ended, my visit concluded with the collection of a copay without the appearance or sign of a smile or thanks – just give us your money and get out. The doctor was nice, informative, and again, came highly recommended but all things considered, I will not be going back.
For sake of discussion, overlay my experience to your office. Are there moments the staff could be perceived as abrasive or rude, even unintentionally? Is there clutter in patient view that may change the patient’s perceptions of the office organization and efficiency? Does the overall experience feel more like a cattle call than a doctor’s office working to change the life of a child? Probably not, but after my experience I returned to our office with a new set of eyes and ears, looking and listening from a patient’s perspective. An exercise, by the way, that is nothing but healthy for everyone to try occasionally.
Shift now to the patients who enter your office for an examination, undergo a full perceptual battery of testing, have a consultation with the doctor and despite the information and findings shared detailing the amount their visual system is impacting their child’s life, are never to be heard from again. Ever wonder why this happens? Sure, a percentage of them can be written off to a lack of financial abilities and some attributed to skepticism injected by Ophthalmology, but what about the remaining population? I’d contend that the middle third of patients in this scenario are where the bread and butter of most VT offices sits. Their perception of what we do and how we do it is not just important, it’s everything.
So what do they think?