Doctors, Aren’t Patients Clients…2?


About a month after my last visit, and the feedback I’d given the eye specialist, I went back for a follow up.

The appointment was for 9.15am;  the second appointment for the day, according to the clinic. They schedule appointments 15 minutes apart.

I was there at 9.05am.  And almost on the dot, at 9.15 am, I was attended to.

The point I’m making…punctuality is possible!

The doctor just needs to be considerate, respect patients’ time, and turn up punctually in the first instance.  (barring emergencies, unforeseen circumstances, of course)

And for those who don’t understand what the kerfuffle is about, read on…



FOR THREE consecutive weeks this month, and even for previous bi-annual check-ups, I’ve been kept waiting for over an hour for each appointment, despite arriving punctually at the eye clinic.

Today, I asked the front liner why the wait was so long and when I could expect to see the doctor.

Front liner: “There is a delay, that’s all I can say.  What you want me to do?”

Bedside Manners

Finally, I got to see the eye specialist.  After his examination, I said calmly that I wanted to give him some feedback, and told him about the long wait and the reaction of the front liner.

The doctor said he would ‘’have a word with him’’.  With this dismissive one-liner, I decided to speak up and not mince my words.

“Patients are your paying customers and clients. You are running a practice, no different from a business. In business one would never dream of being late for an appointment with a client, and if one is late or delayed, we say sorry,” I said, quite annoyed.


You may think otherwise, but patients and medical staff are actually like client and vendor.  Your time, which is your life, is as precious as mine. You have 24 hours a day, so do we.  You may be a doctor, or more educated, but we are all humans.

I have seen many general practitioners, dentists and specialists — and one thing is common — they hardly make an effort to arrive on time.  I am not talking about being held up at the operating theatre, I am talking about actually arriving first thing in the morning when the clinic opens.

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Be realistic in your scheduling.  Don’t expect to see a patient in five minutes and pack in 10 of them within half an hour.  Even though we don’t seem to be “paying” customers because  of co-payment with insurers, it is still money to you, and many times we top up from our own pocket with additional medication — which is highly marked up — since it is not covered by the measly insurance coverage.

Nothing is free.  If you continue to see your practice as a money-making venture, then behave in a customer-centric manner.

He tried to placate me by explaining:

“Today, it’s not expected because we got two complicated cases — surgery to schedule — so we needed more time explaining to them.  Also, sometimes we have walk-ins or patients who come late….”

My reply:

“Then provide a buffer. Be realistic. You don’t do scheduling based on the assumption that all cases are simple, requiring only a few minutes of consultation. Make less money and have a bigger window in your appointments. I know you want to make more profit by packing in many patients and minimising patient interaction time, but by getting your timing wrong, you are making patients wait unfairly.

“Your clients may be busy executives too – with many appointments to keep in the office. We have bosses to report to. Each time we take time off to come here we need to make the necessary arrangement back in the office or ask for time off from boss. Or we have to reschedule our own appointments just to be here.”


Show Some Respect

I made an effort to be punctual, so respect that — make an effort to turn up punctually too. If a patient comes late and eats into the next appointment, then make him/her wait and see those who are on time. If hair salons can do that, and my gynae too, why can’t you?

I am not unreasonable. Had I seen an emergency case — anyone staggering in with bloody eyes — and there is a delay, I will gladly accept it.

You can’t just blame your front liner for being ‘’rude’’ if you do not manage the scheduling first.  And if that is messed up, the least you or he could do is apologise. I did not hear a single word to that effect, instead I get ‘’what do you want me to do’’?

So you know what?  I asked him “What do YOU expect me to do?”.

Storm out and never come back? Storm into your office and insist you see me now?  Is that professional?

3 Things You Could Do

1)      Vow never to come back. See other doctors, ask for all case notes to be transferred to another clinic.

2)      Don’t recommend this clinic to your friends, colleagues, relatives, acquaintances or enemies. Well, maybe not your enemies….

3)      Give feedback and hope for improvement. Or at least an apology.


Follow Up

So out I went for my follow up appointment in six months.

The front liner gave me a date. I want the first appointment please, I told her.

“That would be 9am.  But doctor comes in only at 9.30am, so you still have to wait.”

So I said, then let me have the 9.30am one, like today, and how will you manage those coming in for the 9am to 9.30am appointments?

She had no answer.

So,why have a 9am slot in the first place?

See also  Basic Apology Training


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