The Doctor’s Service Guide
Ever feel that you have more questions than answers after leaving your doctor’s office or do you simply dread going to the doctor? There is a doctor’s service guide that they all should follow and that I am hoping this article reaches many of them because as a patient I feel that sometimes this job can become quite monotonous for them and they could tend to forget that it is a person with feelings at the other end of their desk.
A few years ago, Dr. Rob (as he calls himself on his blog, he is really Dr. Lambert) created a set of rules that he follows with every patient no matter the symptoms or disease. Reading them made me realize how many doctors lose that sense of service and just live for the most amount of patients (i.e., the most amount of money). Of course I am not saying it is the same way for all doctors, since I’ve had the opportunity of visiting great doctors that do take their time to listen and answer all questions, maybe those are the ones who live by Dr. Rob’s rules. You could have 30 or more years of experience or be an intern starting the rounds, it is never too late to have a change of view. Here is a quick overview at that important list that all “docs” should keep in mind (feel free to print this article and post it on your office wall or desk).
Compassion. Being in a doctor’s office every day is the most normal thing if you are a doctor. But remember that it is not the same way for your patients. Their health is on the spotlight. They have to undress, stand on a scale, get poked, prodded, try and explain their symptoms without sounding stupid, get lectured, diagnosed, prescribed and then pay for it all. Compassion is a great tool to help you keep your vision clear as a doctor and help lessen that self-consciousness that pervades most patients sitting on the exam table.
Fear. Doctor’s must have that private eye investigator kind of curiosity for what could be the real reason a patient is at their office. They don’t come to waste your time, there is almost always an underlying reason or fear for a patient to come in. Very often that fear is that the condition they are presenting could be the sign of something far more serious which brings them to see a doctor. Try identifying that underlying fear and answer all questions before the patient leaves.
Trust. Have you noticed how most patients talk about their symptoms in an apologetic tone? Most times that set of symptoms makes no sense and any doctor can be tempted to dismiss or ignore them, which sadly often happens. But as Dr. Rob says, “as a physician, you have to trust your patient”. Out of fear some of those symptoms may be exaggerated thinking that they may be tossed aside for other symptoms, even if they don’t make sense, they put their trust in you for the answer.
Over-reaction. This is something that happens to all patients but mostly to parents who bring their children with a certain symptom praying not to be that over-reacting parent. As a doctor be assuring, answer all questions and express how you can see this could worry them.
Action Plan. A patient is a paying customer if we put it in an “economical” point of view. They pay for your service, for your opinion and knowledge, but most importantly they pay for an action plan. Something that will let them know that they will be fine, either a treatment, a diet, tests, etc. Take your time to explain what each medication is for, what the test results will tell and even say when your next appointment should be. According to Dr. Rob, “The better I can answer these questions, the more confidently the patient will walk out of the exam room.”
Be Selfless. The weight of managing a doctor’s office can tempt anyone to constantly complain and stress out. But patients are paying, among other things, to receive a good service and for you to take care of their problems, not the reverse, as Dr. Lambert puts it. After all being a doctor is a true vocation of service.
As someone who has worked in a highly demanding customer service market, empathy is the key to a successful communication with the client. Get in their shoes, think of the frustrations they might be going through, be that friendly voice with the answer they need right now. Never lose the important sense of humanity.