Customer Service and Health Care

Doctor's Waiting Room, by CarolynYM at DeviantArt.
Doctor’s Waiting Room, by CarolynYM at DeviantArt.

Why do a lot of doctors and/or their staff think they are doing patients a favor by seeing them?  We are their customers, we are paying them, there are plenty of other doctors in the same field; we do not have just one choice!  (I do recognize that some in rural areas do often have just one choice, I grew up in an area like that.  We had to drive 2 hours for me to see an orthopedist, but still, they need to treat us with respect.)

I am so tired of going to a doctor’s office only to wait way past my appointment time, then I’m rushed through my appointment, and when I leave I feel like I wasn’t seen as a person, I was seen as dollar signs.

I have felt this way too many times.  Often, I only feel this way with the doctor’s staff.  I’ll love the doctor, but their staff is rude and inconsiderate.

I can give you many examples of this, but I will just give you 2 that have happened to me recently.  I wish I could say these were isolated events, but unfortunately they aren’t.

Recently I was looking for a new gynecologist.  The last time I went to my old GYN I had trouble with billing (during my annual visit she found something, I had to go to her office to give me a paper on it, I was subsequently sent a bill for an office visit…What?? Even if I was to be charged this, why was I not told in the office?), and feeling like she wasn’t listening to me or answering my questions.  But, this is a different story.  I asked my migraine specialist if she had a recommendation for a GYN who would work with my hormones to possibly help with my migraines, and who knows more about menopause than delivering babies.  She recommended someone who sounded perfect.  My husband made an appointment, unfortunately I was not feeling well the day before and knew I would not feel well enough the next day.  He canceled before the 24 hour required notification, and rescheduled.  The next time I woke up with a vicious migraine, and soon had an asthma attack.  No way I could make it.  Stuart called and explained, they said they understood and would not charge the late cancellation fee.  He decided to wait to make the appointment again.  In a few days he called to make an appointment, and set one up.  The person making the appointment said that they realize his wife has health problems but she really needs to make sure and keep this appointment.  Stuart wasn’t happy with this, “You can’t say you understand and then follow up with something like that.”……Then he received a call from this doctor’s office saying that the doctor would not see me.  He told Stuart that we had canceled 3 times with less than 24 hours notice.  Yes, my husband was livid.  He got off of the phone and told me about it.  He then called the office back and asked to speak to the office manager.  First, he told the person he wasn’t upset with him personally, but he was upset, so please don’t take what he was going to say personally.  (he is so thoughtful, I would have been upset with him, the man is the office manager, he needs to take care of these things.)  Stuart then complained about the way he was spoken to, and proceeded to explain that they lied.  He explained what was said, and what the truth was, and also said it wouldn’t matter now because I would not go to a doctor who allowed their staff to do such things.

Unfortunately for me, she was the only gynecologist I have found who is just a GYN and not an obstetrician too.  But I did find one who practices Integrative Medicine, and works with balancing hormones.  I will be seeing her in 2 weeks.  Let’s hope things go better at this office.

The other incident happened at my General Practitioners office.  I went to see my doctor about my asthma, I was still having a VERY hard time.  I walked in the office (with the aid of my spiffy walker) and the perfume smell hit me in the face!  I started to cough more and wheeze.  I was having a very hard time breathing.  I asked the front desk if there was somewhere else I could wait because of my asthma….I explained I couldn’t breathe with all the perfume in the waiting room…and it was obvious!  She got all snippy and said no.  So I said I would have to leave. Then she said, “well only if a room is empty” and she went to check. I felt like she took forever.  I could tell I was making people in the waiting room uncomfortable.  I had to use my inhaler 5 times just so I could catch my breath.  Then she comes out and gets me.  I was a mess, and ended up blacking out in the exam room, luckily my doctor and Stuart saw how pale I was getting and got me on the table lying down and helped me before I hit the floor.  My doctor was not happy.  (I must say that since this incident the staff there have been much more supportive.  I think my doctor said something to the front desk. Plus, I think we have been lucky to talk to staff who are much more likely to help.)  Now when I go there I wait in the hall until they can take me straight back.  Luckily, my doctor is in a building that has a huge hallway.

Do others notice that you get poor customer service from the health care industry?

Yes, I have had some awesome care, and awesome customer service.  I have some nurses and doctors that make me feel like family.  But, it amazes me how many times I’ve gone to a doctor and felt like I wasn’t wanted there….that I was a bother.  (once I actually had a doctor, who I was referred to, ask me why I was there???  Ummm, because my doctor told me I needed to come see you.  This was after she left me in the room with the door open and talked to a friend in the hall for half an hour.  She left a lasting impression on me, and not a good one.  I’m often very nervous now about going to a specialist now, thinking they may wonder….why am I there?  I’ve never been so embarrassed or pissed off (well I’ve probably been that pissed off, but boy was I ticked, and for some odd reason, my feelings were really hurt.)

Please note, I do understand that the staff at many doctor’s offices deal with a lot of strife, but every patient is different and should be treated that way.  I’ve worked in customer service, and I would be ashamed if I treated anyone the way I have been treated at some health care provider’s offices.


7 thoughts on “Customer Service and Health Care

  1. I actually was so turned off by the staff in a new doctor’s office, that I never went back. The GP I have been seeing for a long while doesn’t even have a nurse….no one to piss me off!


    1. I’ve done the same about never going back after a bad experience with a doctor’s staff. Or with a doctor. I do try to tell the doctor if the staff has been rude, and will sometimes give them a second chance, but if they didn’t fix it…I don’t go back.

      A GP with a nurse even. Wow. I just can’t imagine. But I love my GP’s nurse. There’s just the two women up front that bother me. One because she seems to think the world needs to bow to her, and the other because she wears wayyyyy too much perfume. A person in a medical office should not wear scented things.

      Here’s to having less people to piss us off!


  2. More and more I get the feeling that anyone you “hire:” doctor; repair person; cleaning service, etc. act like they are doing you a big favor if they allow you to hire them and pay them!

    Your recent experiences are horrific and unfortunately, emblematic of the way in which office staff can “control” your time at the doctors. I’m glad something was said to the staff and you’re treatment by them has somewhat improved.

    You know how long I could go on ranting about health care, especially mental health care, but I’ll restrain myself. Or, get more depressed by thinking about how hard it is to have a voice in your own health care, especially, in my case, for my mental health issues.

    On a side note: scents give me migraines, so I everything I use is unscented. Being in the room that gave you your attack, would have had me in migraine hell within a couple of minutes. In Canada, they have scent-free zones (in hospitals, offices, stores, etc.) so that workers or customers or clients don’t go into asthma attacks or get migraines. Something I’d like to see practiced here more.

    I agree, I have had some good doctors, or good doctors’ offices/staff, but somehow, I just never seem to get the two together.
    Good luck with your next adventures in health care land.


    1. When I went to the doctor’s office in Tucson they had signs everywhere that people were not to use scents, or smoke before coming in. I was impressed with that. Not necessarily with the care, but I understand that they knew I would be leaving town soon. Like an ER doc, patch them up and stabilize, then send to their own doctor I guess.

      Scents give me migraines too. And to go in the migraine clinic and smell it…well, that’s just crazy. Also all the florescent lights…killer. My doctor also has migraines and she hates those lights, but can’t do much. I always try to get a room with a window, so I can turn off the light and dim the blinds.

      I understand about more and more people not giving better customer service. Even in restaurants where they should be kissing your butt for tips. They think they deserve a tip no matter what. Well nope, not from me. But I will give a tiny tip, so they know I didn’t forget, I’m really giving them what they deserve.
      It’s sad but when we get good service we are surprised. We shouldn’t be surprised, we should be surprised when it’s bad.

      All that being said, We have found that if we treat someone personally, like ask how they are, how their day has been….stuff like that….their attitude often changes and service gets better. Some people in customer service aren’t treated like human beings by a lot of people, but they need to understand that not all people are the same.


      1. It is true that a little thank you is nice to hear when working as a waitress (like I did), or customer service — who I yell at then apologize to.
        I think perhaps it’s another generational phenom; the service industry-aged kids have very different attitudes about their “worth” and how to treat people!


  3. I have had good and bad experiences. Funny–if you are going to a particular clinic you can’t change the staff you deal with as easily as you can switch the doctor. I’ve been fairly lucky, I guess, with doctors. I have had worse luck with dentists, by a long shot. Although the one I finally have now the last couple years is a good place to go–whew!

    I agree that it seems like any service people, in general, are worse than they used to be, though.


  4. Rita,
    I know about clinics. I was a Navy brat, so going to the Navy clinic growing up was an ordeal. No appointments, just go and wait. Those clinics were the worst on a sick kid.

    My hip doctor is in a group, and the front staff is horrible. The worst I’ve seen in a long time. But he is good, and his nurse is good, he really doesn’t have much to do with the front staff because he’s not a founding doc at this group, or something like that. I’ve almost stopped going to him a few times because of the unorganized staff and because of how many people look like they are just standing there doing nothing…not to mention how RUDE they are. But I’ve chosen to put up with them in order to have this extra good orthopedist.

    Customer service has suffered everywhere. I wonder though if part of it is because the majority of the people being waited on are rude to them and they just expect it so they put up their guard. I know when I worked customer service, I had a lot of awful customers…but I couldn’t let it get to me or I would have gotten an ulcer or something. I believe everyone is different, don’t treat one person one way because of how so many other people have treated you. You might be surprised.

    I’m a tipper. I show how I feel about service through tips. If it’s bad, I give a very small tip, even when I tip is not needed, simply to show….You Suck! (I mean like a quarter) If service is good, I tip more than the minimum, and make sure to tell the person how pleased I was. It just always seems to make a difference. At least in my feelings.


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