There's a long list of problems with the U.S. healthcare system, including skyrocketing premiums, sizable gaps and limits in insurance coverage, an over-emphasis on risk mitigation (re: avoiding malpractice lawsuits), etc. Despite these challenges, this doesn't mean that the customer experience has to suffer. For instance, I had a downright delightful healthcare experience this past weekend with an ophthalmologist.Alas, I've reached that point in my life where my arms aren't long enough for me to read the fine print. In my case, I knew it was time to see an eye doctor when I recently had to resort to using a magnifying glass to see small font on a computer screen. And so it was that I went to see my wife's ophthalmologist on a recent Saturday morning.
After arriving at the office and filling out paperwork, I was greeted by Dr. Feldman and asked to come to an examination room with him. On the way there, he joked with a few other patients, offering to bring them bagels while they waited. This interaction, though minor, set the tone for what turned out to be a light-hearted visit. Granted, this kind of cheeriness isn't always feasible with medical appointments, especially when people are being treated for serious health problems. But for an otherwise routine eye exam, there's no reason why the physician-patient interaction has to be cold or distant. A little small talk can go a long way toward putting patients at ease and to help strengthen the doctor-patient relationship.
In fact, it's one of the reasons I've continued to see the same dentist for the past 20 years. We're both roughly the same age, with similar backgrounds and family dynamics and we have a good rapport. Plus, he's competent. As such, I've had no reason or desire to switch dentists.
Back to the eye exam. Before Dr. Feldman examined me, he asked me about my interests and we talked about skiing, including the resorts that we each frequent. While Dr. Feldman examined me, he took the time to explain in layman's terms what the exam revealed about my vision and why he was prescribing glasses for reading and computer use.
I appreciated how Dr. Feldman treated me and explained things. Like other people, I've had far too many exams by physicians who are impersonal and use too much clinical terminology to discuss a diagnosis or treatment. Unfortunately, some physicians can be incredibly cold when sharing a diagnosis with someone. Patients expect empathy and meaningful face to face interactions with physicians and nurses when discussing their health and well being. What they don't want is someone spewing incomprehensible medical jargon without emotion.
Customer loyalty will take on greater importance in healthcare as new laws and regulations open up customer choice. Physicians like Dr. Feldman who are warm, genuine, and caring will continue to have loyal patients. Perhaps other physicians that have been less customer-friendly will see the writing on the wall and follow suit as healthcare becomes more competitive. Likely those that are more clinically-oriented and less personable will not. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see the role that customer experience plays in healthcare going forward.