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It’s The Little Things

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I took a spill off my bike earlier this summer and managed to break my index finger. The intervening months have seen many doctor and rehab visits, but just last week I was at the Orthopedist waiting for my final checkup to ensure everything was as good as it felt.

As a good (and somewhat anal-retentive) patient, I arrived around 10:00 for my 10:10 appointment. I believe they called me back to an exam room around 10:30. There I proceeded to wait for another 25 minutes until the doctor came to see me, 45 minutes after my appointment time. As I passed those 25 minutes, I heard the doctor spending copious amounts of time with the patients before me; explaining (and re-explaining) how a procedure would work, gushing over another’s vacation photos from the lake house, and generally doing every unintentional thing in his power to work me into a good lather.

When the doctor finally arrived, he was his usual upbeat, friendly, and approachable self. He immediately apologized for his delay, explaining that the morning’s storms had knocked out their power, causing a 45-minute delay to the start of their day. After a quick examination, he dictated some notes into the EMR system on his laptop and I was sent on my way with a clean bill of finger-health.

Driving back to the office, I started to tick off all the key interactions of that visit that built up to my overall experience:

Check In

The receptionist gave no sign or indication of a delay (she barely gave signs of life), missing an opportunity to set my expectations and nip any annoyance in the bud.

No Cellphone Policy

This office has many prominent “Turn off cellphones before entering office” signs. In this day and age, a policy like this is curious. Is it a safety issue? Privacy? Politeness?

  • Pro: There was a large variety of (current!) magazines to read, so my boredom was sated. Well-played.
  • Con: I heard so many other people’s phones going off that I eventually ignored the ban took a hit off my Designed by Apple in California crackpipe. Many important things happen on Twitter in 45 minutes!

Doctor/Patient Banter:

  • Pro: This doctor isn’t just about maximizing throughput. He spends the time to explain procedures to patients. He gets to know them. He has real human interactions with them. This is a guy that can put me at ease when serious medical issues arise.
  • Con: Be aware of your surroundings. Bones and joints aren’t the most personally sensitive parts of people’s bodies, but they might not want all the other people in the hall to hear every word of their diagnosis. Also, there’s a time and a place for everything. Maybe you build time into your schedule to get to know your patients, but when you’re running 45 minutes behind, that’s not appropriate. There’s no need to rush, just level with people and they’ll likely understand. We’ve all been there.


EMR/EHR systems are becoming the norm. There are serious incentives for practices to implement them. However, with that comes new challenges and opportunities.

  • Pro: This is the first time I’ve seen a doctor dictate their notes into an EMR. I’d never thought of it before, but what a fantastic thing. Now I know not only what the doctor tells me, but also what he is putting in my file. This is a great way to pull back the curtain that frequently separates a patient from their records. Remember Elaine and her files? No more.
  • Con: Power outages mean servers can go down, batteries can run out. Physicians need sophisticated IT equipment to ensure minimal downtime. When your ISP has a better SLA than your healthcare provider things are a little out of whack.

Overall, my visit was a decent one. I got a clean bill of health and despite the delays, I was out of there in under an hour. Having said that, could it have been better? You bet. I spent 45 of those sub-60 minutes waiting to see the doctor. I wouldn’t call that respecting the client’s time. Ideally, I would have arrived and been immediately notified of the delay, giving me an opportunity to step out and make any work-related calls or adjust my day’s schedule. From there I could have settled in to a good issue of Bicycling and been at least resigned to the delay when the doctor finally saw me, instead of the fired-up state I was in after stewing in various holding patterns for three-quarters of an hour.

These are the things we tend to obsess over at Think Company. Many times they’re minor points, but they can also be the straws that break the camel’s back (or the toothpicks that build the bridge). Crafting an extraordinary experience for your employees, customers, or patients is an exercise that requires a holistic approach including time-honored practices, divergent thinking, and above all an intense attention to detail. Luckily, that’s right up our alley.

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