The Mentors | Nov/Dec '17

Great Expectations

The increasingly daunting task of making our patients happy.

A few days ago, I was about to start my morning postop clinic and was feeling pretty good about the day ahead. The previous day’s surgeries had gone well, and I was expecting all smiles from my patients. I thought back to how, years ago on this day, patients would sometimes bring in thank-you gifts, like fruit from their garden, to show their gratitude for our efforts. I rarely see that anymore, but patients are generally in a good mood on day 1.

When I walked into the room of the first patient, I saw a man with his arms crossed and a stern look on his face. His exam was near perfect, but he was very upset he couldn’t read up close, even though he had chosen a distance correction. After spending a while defusing that situation, I walked out into the hallway, where my surgery coordinator proceeded to tell me a toric lens patient for next week postponed surgery so she could “shop around for a better deal.” These once-rare occurrences are now more common than I’d like to admit.

UP AGAINST THE CLOCK

From my point of view, I think one of the biggest challenges facing doctors is the increasing expectations our patients have of the work we do for them. It used to be that everyone wanted a perfect outcome. Now, everyone expects a perfect outcome. In our practice, we have elaborate systems in place to try to educate patients on their options and outcomes for their care. Ultimately, however, it comes down to the one-on-one time we surgeons spend talking to our patients.

Unfortunately, time is a precious commodity for doctors, and there just never seems to be enough of it. Ultimately, patients are going to have to learn to accept surrogates for the doctor’s time. Companies with services and apps that can help manage the care of patients in the practice will become an increasingly vital part of the patient experience.

CONCLUSION

Making patients happy these days is a challenge to be sure, but it is not insurmountable. When I went in to see my last postop patient that day, she was smiling and had a basket of fresh eggs from her farm to give me as a thank you! The more things change, the more they stay the same.

author
Mark Kontos, MD | Section Editor

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