I took one of our cars into the dealer to fix a problem that they supposedly fixed last week. In the dealership waiting room, I sat next to a man in a military flight suit. The name tag on his flight jacket indicated that he was a captain in the Air Force; he said that he was serving in Pensacola as a flight instructor. He was a B-52 pilot who spent the first several years of his military life as an enlisted Marine Corps helicopter mechanic.
We talked about many military issues and some current government policies. He was very interesting to chat with as he seemed to have given these issues considerable consideration. After a while, his ride came and he had to leave. I stood up to stretch and then checked my watch. It had been an hour-and-a-half. Looking around the vast service lot, I noticed what appeared to be my car just sitting unattended off to the side parked by a bunch of other cars. I presumed they hadn’t even started on it. That didn’t make me happy because I had an appointment. I decided to talk to my service manager. This is a big dealership and they have many service managers. I saw that my service manager was busy with a customer. As I waited, I considered what I should say. I thought about the cruddy communications and service that I’ve gotten in medical offices lately. I recalled the medical office problems that my mother-in-law is enduring. I called to mind a friend who recently told me that she had a medical procedure done two weeks ago but hasn’t gotten a call regarding the results although she has gotten the bill. She went on to say that she got a stove from Lowe’s; it had a problem and Lowe’s called her three times to keep her informed of its status. It seemed that Lowe’s ran a better operation than her doctor’s office!! Anyway, as I thought about what to say, I thought of a quip made by a friend: “Throw a fit.” I finally decided to say, “I had an appointment; I hope that’s not my car out there.” Well, as my service manager finished up with a customer I approached his station. He approached me and spoke first. “Your car is finished; they’ll drive it up in just a moment. We replaced a vacuum hose. There is no charge.”
I’m glad that he spoke first and I’m glad that I didn’t display a lack of character. However, as I drove away, I still thought of my mother-in-law and my friend’s medical experiences against the backdrop of my own. I know that automated answering machines, convoluted policies, and indirect medical access allow medical clinics to hire less staff. However, medical care should necessitate ample human interaction. There are few things more aggravating when one is sick or elderly than to have to duck and weave through the bureaucracy of a medical clinic or hospital. It just shouldn’t be that way and the defining reason that people get into health care ought to raise a conscious objection to the way their medical facilities operate. Health care administrators should be reminded not to overly compromise the personal aspect of patient care when trying to provide medical care at as low of an overhead cost as possible. I realize that personnel are the most expensive parts of a business, but personal service and interaction are necessary aspects of conscientious patient care. In fact, I’d recommend that healthcare administrators think in terms of providing patient care rather than in terms of delivering medical care. It’s a nuance perhaps, but it’s a profound paradigm shift in the approach to patient care. My daughter is a healthcare administrator; I think she’d agree.