Friday, September 01, 2006

Klemzig Medical Centre: Bad Customer Experience

All week I have been sick. I've stayed home Thursday, and today. My lovely girlfriend Chloe finally set up an appointment for me at the Klemzig Medical Centre. It's one of these multiple doctor setups.

The appointment: 3:15 in the afternoon.
We arrive at 3:15. A stuffy, useless old sow thrusts a form at me, and tells me to put in my name, and details. In the ample time in which she's sitting around doing not very much, instead of asking for my details and keying them into a computer; she thrusts a bit of paper at me - presumably for retyping later. This smacks of working harder, not smarter already...

I have my mother's medicare card number, not the card. I put sparse details onto the form and briefly consider circling "Ms." as my proper form of address. I shove it back - she's going to have to work to get this patient in.
Because I'm an exception to the norm, and don't have the card on me, she immediately decideds it's Not Her Job to fix this.
It's not possible to do it with medicare - because despite having the number, I don't have the card. I know that's bullshit, and I press.
You mean you can't look it up online or ring them?
A somewhat nicer staff member off to the side goes:
Yeah, hey, you can and comes to my rescue - I liked her a lot better from that moment on.

After having to be pushed outside of her comfort zone, the old biddy does some dialing. My details can't be found. Instead of looking up the card number I have provided, she and the person she talks to try searching by my name. This wastes about 5 minutes.
Eventually, I just tell her to tell them the card number provided, that it's under Linda O'Connor, and I'm the second name on the card, Daniel O'Connor.
They do this, and after much confusion, it's established that the Daniel O'Connor on the card is NOT the Daniel O'Connor standing in front of the old biddy, because the birthdates are not matched up.
Again, it's not her job to put in her initiative and ask if I have some kind of ID to check my birthdate. If I have photo ID, I'm probably who I say I am, aren't I.
Note to self: my own mother doesn't know my birthday.
I'm told to sit down and read magazines. There's 4 other people. It's now about 3:30. We sit, we wait. We wait, we sit.
I begin to grumble. It's now 20 minutes after the set appointment time. I earn enough an hour for this to be costing me serious cash - or bed rest, which is infinitely preferable.
I begin mentioning to Chloe that we are leaving if the doctor is not available in the next 5 minutes. I start harping on a bit, bitterly, about the general broken setup they have here.

A minute to spare, 24 minutes after the set appointment time, the doctor comes out.

In case you are wondering, his name is Dr Oaten. I mention, out loud that perhaps waiting 25 minutes beyond the appointment time is a bit far fetched and bad patient care. He seems confused by the concept of not making people wait to see him.

I'm ushered in. I tell him what's wrong. It sounds kind of piss poor even to me, and by this time I'm almost fully over my illness. Without so much as a question about my medical history / etc, he writes out a Certificate of Sickness.
Without batting an eyelid.
I'm not impressed.

I mention my concern about the rest of my mouth actually hurting - not just the teeth. Do you know what he says to me?
Oh, that's a dental problem then.

What? I come to you, because I have a throat infection and possibly sores in my mouth, and you fob me off with that? I thought you would, in your years of medicine, actually know what inflammation / sores / cuts in someone's mouth look like - and if it was serious, you'd say so, and if it wasn't, you'd tell me that too.

The entire appointment lasted 3 minutes.

I walk out.

I stand in front of the old hag, she ignores me. I get annoyed. I wait. She ignores me further. Fuck you, you ineffectual old sow... Finally, she gets around to shaking me down for money.

$50+ for 3 minutes of the doctor's time.

I ask her, while she's ringing it up, if it's standard practice for the doctor to overbook and delay people's treatment by up to 25 minutes.

She says she doesn't know what I mean.

I repeat - I mean to say, I arrived at 3:15, the appointment time, and waited until 3:40 before the doctor showed up, for 3 minutes, in which he did no treatment, nor took any details. Further, you screwed up my medicare and are just about useless. A bit of thinking outside of the square and you could have made this better for everyone.

This presses a button. She breaks down from her customer (un)friendly facade. She tells me I was 15 minutes late. Bullshit. I know I wasn't, as I left the house at 3:10. Even if I were 15 minutes late, the fact that the doctor was 10 further minutes late is just hopeless. I still maintain I was on time. She disagrees. I tell her that's pretty dodgy.

I tell her I won't be coming back. Chloe has run off because she can see I'm making a scene - poor Chloe :(

The whole experience just fucking well annoyed me. Doctors are just like the rest of us - if Dan the Software Developer has to field silly questions from Bob the End User, and does so amidst panic, fire, chaos all while having a smile in his voice, why the hell doesn't the Doctor have to?

There's an oath that most doctors take at some point, there's a modern adaptation of it which I've grabbed an excerpt from below.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
I don't see anywhere in there "charge $50 for 3 minutes of your time and accomplish nothing." I don't see anywhere in there that people should set up 'medical factories' (its what this place felt like) in order to get money walking in through the door as fast as possible.
What I do see in there is an obligation to treat the ill, to think of them as people rather than illnesses or inanimate things. As soon as I walked in the door, I was a paycheck.

If you are curious...
Oaten D Dr
78 O G Road
Telephone 8369 0444

Please, do book in with him if you can. You'll get no questions asked days off work, and it'll only cost you a fight with an old lady and $50.


Anonymous said...

I've been in and out of the medical system my entire life. And yes, there is lots of room for improvement. Lots.

Nobody in this world seems to care about quality anymore. It is all about that stuff, that money.

Waiting that time for a doctor is pretty normal. A doctor running on time would be a suprise, from my experience. The entire medical system at times seems to have a "lets get you there 15+ minutes early" feel to it. But maybe it is just some patients taking up more time than anticipated, I'm not sure. I know I've certaining run way over time on many appointments.

Most of my experience isn't with GPs, however. I normally see specialists, and they also have their fair share of running late, along with hospital procedures, etc. I don't even have my own GP these days, the last one I saw I managed to obtain five referrals to specialists for pre-existing conditions from her without her having previously seen me!

What is even funnier is when you are at the place at 8am, and they still run late. Maybe in the afternoon you can see them having delays all day pushing back appointments, but when it is so early in the morning you really have to wonder.

One of the best time keepers I have come across is my dentist. Or should I say was my dentist. He sadly is retiring, or some such. He was such a nice guy.

I have a few doctors and vets in my family, so we always have people to fall back on, and my mum was a pharmacist as well, so she has ideas herself. Maybe you could try asking one of them, they are nice from time to time.

Anyway, hope you manage to sort out your problems without too much hassle.

Anonymous said...

If I am sick I don't go to the doctors anymore. It's cheaper for me to just have a cup of tea and wait for the whole thing to blow over.
Last year I went to the GP. I think I was 10 mins early (or earlier, becasue my mother never wants to be late) I waited in a waiting room full of squabbling families, yelling children and disease ridden magazines for 1 hour!!! I wasn't happy. People who got there AFTER me went into see the Dr before me!

Dan said...

Of COURSE it's standard waiting time. It fucking well shouldn't be.

Rough estimates say:
* In 2003 New Zealand had 74.9 GPs / 100,000 population
* In 2003 the United Kingdom had 65.4 GPs per 100,000 population
* In 2002 Australia had 111 / 100,000 population

111? I can tell you there weren't 900 people in that waiting room to see that one doctor.

Very hazy math: 111/100,000 is roughly 900 people. Assume that ALL of them have to come see the doctor once, and 50% of them have to come back for 3 visits a week for an entire year.

That's 9 new, once off patients each week, and 27 repeat visits of existing patients throughout the year. This assumes a 50 week year.

36 patients in a week? 7 or 8 a day. You SHOULD be able to cater for about an hour at a time with each patient by that working out.

Now, it's hazy because it doesn't even begin to consider doctor-local population levels, nor if populations are prone to illness (seasonal, environmental, etc). But it's enough to make me angry, because it doesn't take an hour to tell someone they have a sore throat.

One of my housemates is a dental assistant. She does reception work. It's standard practice to overbook the number of patients the dentist can take. Why? Money!

She never comes home from her work amazed at all of the good work they do, about how they helped X, Y and Z patients feel better.
Instead it's always "Oh my god, I can't believe my boss makes so much $$$$!"

Dan said...

Oops, 50% returning 3 times in a year.

That should cover off people the people who NEVER go to a doctor, and the people who have to visit every few weeks...

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been to a doctor before???? You're lucky you only had to wait 23 minutes, sounds like there wasn't much the doctor could do for you anyway and the fee is normal, and you can claim half of it back.
I've been going to this surgery for the past 25 years and it's the same everywhere...

Anonymous said...

You sound very selfish and very self-centred. Everyone else is supposed to be super efficient, and bend over backwards for you, but you don't have to be organised in the least.

Why didn't you have the medicare card with you?
You're old enough to have a licence, and old enough to have a girl friend, so why don't you have your own medicare card? They're free, after all.

You are the one who wasted time by not having a card.

It's not the "old biddy's" [ageist and sexist] fault that your mother gave Medicare your wrong birthday.

And just why should it be her job to fix your mess?

The reception staff have to have your details in writing for record purposes - it's a legal requirement. They don't do it just to mess you around.

You say you considered circling Ms, and she's going to have to work. That shows you came in with a 'fuck you' attitude.

The most common reason for doctors running late for appointments is patients booking for a "standard" appointment, and then expecting an extended appointment.

I bet you'd be the first to bitch if the doctor were on time, and then threw you out when your time was up - even if you weren't finished - so that the next patient could be seen on time.

Oh, and it didn't really cost you $50, 'cos you get a refund from Medicare - if you can find that Medicare card.

But instead of finding that card, why not try getting a cash refund from a Medicare office on the basis of quoting a Medicare number, and offering as ID a driving licence with a different DOB?

Anonymous said...

So you arrive at 3:15 for a 3:15 appointment at a surgery where you have never been before, and expect to walk straight in?

If you were already a patient at that centre, then it would be reasonable to arrive exactly on time.

Did you really think there would be no paper work for a new patient?

Did you really think that you could just breeze in with a number written on a scap of paper?

Did you really think with all the laws that apply to doctors, that you would not have to fill out, and sign at least one hard-copy form?

chris said...

You are an absolute idiot.

I'm not surprised that Chloe ran off embarassed, I'm not sure why you weren't embarassed yourself.
Do you think the whole world owes you something.

Deal with the situation and move on. Doctors do not keep you waiting while they have a cup of coffee. There are people who book in with a sore stomach and find out that they have terminal cancer behind those doors.

Get over yourself and start appreciating what you are given.

You did not bring your Medicare card, that is your problem. You could have called Medicare but you didn't, instead choosing to criticise somebody who did make the call for you. Did you offer to pay for the phonecall to medicare?

Is it your right to make people ring around for your unorganised behaviour?

You expect way too much from others and expect nothing from yourself.

Yes, you booked a time. Yes the doctor was late. Yes people have things to do apart from waiting around.

But I ask you this, if you were diagnosed with a terminal illness on the spot, would you appreciate the doctor kicking you out after 10 minutes and saying "come back tomorrow for an explanation of what is wrong, I have other people waiting, and I'm not allowed to be late"

Take a long hard look at yourself,
and then change

Anonymous said...

my auggwation is tht you saw the wrong doctor - you need a psychiatrist -and you wiill almost certainly wait for him too.

Dan said...

Thanks anonymous posters, I really appreciate the feedback.

Clearly I'm so absolutely self centered and morally bankrupt that I should just crawl into a hole and die.

I'm so glad you all pointed it out to me, whilst hiding behind the veil.

This experience was infuriating. I'm was a patient, and I was treated like a piece of meat by both the doctor and the staff, who didn't care.

I've been to other doctors, and have been treated in a much more professional and acceptable way.

I don't know if it's changed in the last few years, but this experience was crap.

Mark Disher said...

you are a revolting spoilt brat...grow up punk

Dan said...

Thanks for adding your feedback there Mark.

In the intervening 5 years since I authored this, I've been to a number of other doctors.

It turns out that there is another way to go about dealing with patients, and it's to actually treat them with a scrap of respect or courtesy; or perhaps work with them to resolve problems; rather than against.

I'm still furious about the experience; and hope the specific individuals (doctor, receptionist) have long since moved on from that particular location.

I was appalled at the way in which the doctor I saw applied his profession.
I was appalled at the way I was handled by the staff.

A number of people I know have reported a much better time since, with different doctors. You may in fact be one of them.
I would be glad if that is the 99% and no one else has had an experience as poor as mine was since.

It doesn't change the fact that I was treated like dirt in 2006. I suspect people from this business have come across this post, as it has high pagerank on google. For those people, I suspect my rant has helped highlight that the customer experience is not always perfect.
Maybe, just maybe, they've taken the criticism on board.

But attacking me, telling me to grow up - how is that helping?

If you've got good experiences about this place; let's hear those instead.

If you've got practical suggestions on medical practice management in the digital age, I'm very, very open to hearing about them.

Anonymous said...

Attacking you? I don't think you can be too sensitive about this when you opened the batting with references to the "old sow". You also tried to make the situation difficult, which I don't get.
Obviously this was a long time ago but I see that five years later you were still furious. Really? Are you that angry as a person?
I would not have commented except that this is revealed fairly high on the result list in a search for the surgery, which is what I did, looking for the phone number when had to call for some results.
I must say that I have used this clinic for twenty years plus and have received excellent care. I'll be honest, I don't visit Dr. Oaten but am very grateful to have been looked after by Drs May and Cameron who I would recommend to everyone for their clinical knowledge, professionalism and kindness.
I can understand if you were sick and lost your temper. We all say and do stupid things when we are in wanker mode, which we regret. But to put a post up about it which is there six years later?
I do think it is a bit weak. This is your anecdotal version after all, yet the post could do harm to the reputation of the doctors at the clinic. I'm sure you would be (justifiably) outraged if the surgery posted blog comments about petulant, whingeing bastard / arsehole / dickhead patients and identified them by name. After all this would only be the surgery's version of events, would be subjective and might be completely false.
To be kept waiting half an hour is nothing in medical practice. There are a myriad reasons for delays, some outlined above, but essentially, if you want clockwork, the surgery will have to build buffer time into appointments and the result is fewer patients will get in.
This surgery is completely subscribed, and cannot accept new patients (so it can't be that bad) and I will prefer to wait half an hour to get in than not get in at all. Fare well in the future, but you will have to avoid this kind of angry, hurt and bitter attitude about miniscule things or you really will get sick.

Anonymous said...

Daniel O'Connor, at the heading of your rant I see I see you describe yourself as an "architect in Adelaide".

You are not registered in South Australia as an architect.

Please explain.

Dan said...

I see that the finer points of context are lost on some. Software architect. One of those people who engineer software, the type not usually inhabited by meatspace people.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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