Addressing the ‘wait’ at the doctor’s office

A day in the life of the staff at a medical office:    You need to see that you are prepared to meet with the accountant at 3pm.  You run to the copy machine, but it is out of paper again.  An employee announced he will need to take a few weeks off.  A letter arrives about the fact that your I.S. support company is raising their prices.  A customer complains to you about their experience in dealing with your office.   Another salesman shares a product offering that may (or may not), help your patients.

The truth is, day to day operations can be all consuming, pulling you away from the primary purpose and intrinsic strengths of your business.

What is the primary purpose and strength of your business? When customer’s interact with your business, is it a positive experience? Is your business meeting their needs?  Better yet, does the experience exceed their expectations? These questions apply to any type of business whether it be a product or service based company.

Let’s explore one type of business together.  Most of us need to make a trip to a doctor’s office once in a while.  What is or should be the primary purpose of say, the family doctor?  Service when you need it,  answers you believe in at a fair price.  As a parent with four children, I have visited numerous doctors over the years.  Here is my typical customer experience:

  • You phone the doctor’s office.
  • You are put on hold.
  • The receptionist comes back on the line to tell you the doctor cannot see you for two more days.
  • When you arrive at the office two days later, you sign in and take a seat. You wait.
  • You are called back up to the window to be handed a clipboard full of paperwork.
  • You work through paper work; insurance, questionnaire about your condition, etc.
  • You turn the clipboard back in and sit and wait.  And often wait some more.
  • The nurse calls you back and gathers some precursory information.
  • You sit and wait.
  • The doctor arrives, asks questions, examines and then shares his educated opinion.
  • You then prepare to exit, check-out, pay the bill and depart.
  • You ponder the doctor’s advice and in most cases feel confident about the advice.  Sometimes, however, you may be feeling that the doctor was over-confident or perhaps the answer feels incomplete or lacking in some way.
  • You feel grateful that you only had to make a co-pay because your insurance is decent.  You wonder what the uninsured have to pay for this service.  Once in a while, you wonder what your insurance company paid.

All right.  Now let’s think about ways to change this up a bit.  Let’s apply a customer-based improvement tool to this business situation. Toyota would call this a ‘lean’ tool.  Others may call it a value-stream mapping tool, but simply put, you reflect on the steps (or customer experience, in this case) and explore ways to improve it.  Remember the business’s primary purpose is:  Service when you need it, and answers you believe in, at a fair price.  

Think outside the box.

  1. Does a customer have to call? If he has an iPod, Blackberry or other, could he use his cellphone to see and select an appointment time?
  2. If the doctor of choice is not available, could the customer have immediate access to another doctor that would meet their needs in the same office or a doctor within a xx mile radius.
  3. Could our insurance and health information be made available on-line so that we did not have to repeat it at each visit? Yes, yes, I know, we don’t want just anyone to have access, but if we can bank online, surely there is a possible alternative.
  4. When you arrive for a 10 am appointment, you are called back to the exam room at 10 am.  Offices that do not see their patients on time likely have some business practices that would benefit from ‘lean’ / value-stream mapping tools as well.
  5. The doctor allows you time to soak on his advice and follows up with a phone call the next day to ask any new questions that may have arisen.
  6. The doctor knows his professional limits.  When he/she does not know the answer and sets up an appointment for you with someone who does.
  7. Doctor visit fees are reasonable.  This topic is huge… involvement of health insurance companies, malpractice insurance, price of medical goods, efficiency of the doctor’s office processes, rent/lease costs and more.  But, keep in mind, it was not so long ago that we could pay the doctor with a fresh chicken or a home-baked apple pie!

Here we stepped away from day-to-day doctor’s office chaos and applied a customer-focused tool to a customer’s doctor’s office visit experience.

We first defined the primary purpose of the business.

Next, we walked in the shoes of the customer and wrote out the steps that they  go through to get care.

Next, we reflected on the primary purpose of the business and captured some ideas on how to improve the customer experience.

This technique is widely practiced in industry today and is helping companies improve their products/services, their customer facing processes as well as their internal processes, reducing the cost of doing business and improving profits.

Give it a try.  Involve your employees.  If you need help, contact us at Maple Hill Consulting.  We offer business efficiency training and support.  We can be reached at or by phone: 812-604-1172.

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