I just went over to the health care blog, KevinMD.com and am now in a bad mood.
Why? Because when I read the comments over there I get slimed by negative comments and cynicism. Check out the comments on this post (written by yours truly).
Quick summary, I wrote a piece about my bad experience with the administrative staff at my primary care doctor’s office. It was a frustrating experience and I wanted to share with other doctors the business lessons inherent in this customer service experience.
However, some of the comments I received on the post were just weird (or “off topic” as we say in social skills group). Some docs are telling me that I shouldn’t have received the medicine I needed, others felt Obamacare had something to do with my issue that the support staff was rude. Another person said I got good care because I’m a PhD. And then there was the debate about whether I was “critically ill.” Huh? I was trying to make a point about customer service.
There’s a lot of venting and whining about how patients don’t understand them, managed care is screwing them. I hope none of these folks ever treat me for an illness because they don’t seem too compassionate.
What this all says to me is the people who commented on this blog (not a representative sample, I am aware) don’t get it and are in a collective bad mood.
First, I don’t see them viewing people as “people.” You know, with feelings and needs and CHOICES.
Secondly, they are stuck in the mentality that “good enough” should be appreciated. What I heard (between the lines) was, “Hey, you got an appointment and the drugs you wanted, what more do you want from us? Eye contact?!”
Third, they accept things as they are and don’t see any way to make them better.
“I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!”
I’ve said this before and will again, in the health care field we are victims to a vicious cycle of “learned helplessness.” Like that woman in that MedAlert (or whatever help device was being advertised) we feel we are knocked down and have no power or self agency to get up.
We look at our profession and career and say,
“This managed care mess is HOPELESS and we have NO OPTIONS! Patients don’t understand my plight and are demanding and clueless.”
And with that mindset, we use our energy to complain, condescend, debate moot points and be ineffective in making any real change.
And we wonder why people prefer to see nurse practitioners, or pay out of pocket for reiki or accupunture or a naturopath or an unlicensed life coach.
Whether you’re a doctor, psychologist, LMHC, MSW, chiropractor,
people want you to CARE, see them as a PERSON and treat them with RESPECT.
Busy professionals may think, “Well, I’m busy and I’m talented and skilled and people should respect me for that. If I’m brusque or my staff is rude, so what? That is little price to pay for access to my services.”
“I’m stressed out and work hard. This managed care stuff is a drag and patients demand too much. What more can I do?”
Well, there are many things you can do. Here are a few.
How to break the bad attitude cycle
Be cognizant that we ALL have choices. As a patient I choose my doctors and if I want to pay them with my insurance or out of pocket.
As a physician or clinician you also have choices. You can choose what insurance you accept, which patients you see, how you treat the people who trust their health to you, and how stressed you allow yourself to become.
Blaming everyone else is unproductive. In my post about the rude staff, not one of those physicians indicated they would consider training their staff to be more professional (which was my point).
However, most of them had someone else to blame: Me for asking for an appointment or antibiotics, health care reform, managed care, patients for not understanding them.
The solution: Start with you.
You can’t change me or health care, or insurance companies.
Can you change your mindset that your patients are clueless or that you must accept managed care blindly?
Can you train your staff?
Can you find other ways to improve the administrative side of your practice?
I don’t understand why health care professionals just accept all the garbage managed care throws at us. I really don’t get it. If an insurer is hard to work with , don’t work with them. If they pay low rates, don’t accept them.
I know your worries are these:
- My patients will not have quality care.
- I won’t have any patients.
I get it. But if you free yourself from blindly accepting what a third party tells you to do, you can use the energy you now dedicate to being frustrated to designing new models of care and payment. Shift your way of thinking from one of stuck frustration to one of innovation. Figure out payment models that work for you and your patients, partner with other like minded professionals to cut costs.
And you WILL have patients because lots of folks are going without care because they won’t deal with annoying business practices, or paying loads of money to go to alternative practitioners because they give them a different healing experience based on something other than the billable hour or procedure.
The thing we need to keep in mind is this: the crappy attitude is self imposed. No one forces us to run our businesses this way. No one. You do it because the generation before you did, right? But is “everyone else is doing it” a reason to continue to do it the same way?
We live in a new time. We need to step up and lead a new way to treat people who need health care. We need to be open and compassionate and respectful to the whole person, not just the part of them that pays our overhead.
Where do we go from here?
My three part plan
- I vow to never work with a health care professional or team who treats me or any family member with disrespect. We deserve better. I will travel a longer distance and pay more money if I have to.
- As a clinician I will always treat my clients and their families with respect. It’s the right thing to do as a person and it is very good for my business.
- I will not tolerate the whining and bad attitude of my colleagues who are invested in their victimhood and learned helplessness. I won’t be rude, but I will stand up and say, “If you don’t like the way things are, what will you do to make them better?”
Remember, change is possible. It starts with you as an individual.
And no, it’s not easy, so please don’t leave me a comment saying this isn’t easy. And please no comments about typos. I spell check. It isn’t perfect. I’m OK with that.
Just remember, you chose how you use your energy. You can use it to spin your tires in helpless anxiety or use it to make change–your choice.
This is not a warm and fuzzy post and that is intentional. I feel our professions are important to our communities, but we don’t take care of our selves or our businesses. An empowered health care profession is better for everyone.
When you let go of unproductive business models, everything becomes easier–treatment, income, professional satisfaction. What do you think? Can you empower yourself, shift your mindset? What is YOUR 3 part plan to move forward, make change and improve your practice?
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