I went to an appointment today with a doctor in a high-paying specialty who presumably has the resources to organize his office the way he wants. I was very satisfied with the doctor’s thoroughness, empathy and communications skills –which for me were the key things I was looking for. But I was also struck by the mix of modern, sleek information technology with some old-fashioned (even retrograde) administrative processes.
The nurses and medical assistants had iPads, which they used to call patients, record information and manage the workflow. The electronic medical record was clearly a bit clunky so the doctor made use of a medical scribe to whom he dictated information as he performed the exam. It’s kind of crazy that he needed to add a person to the process when the EHR was introduced, but I’m glad he did because it meant he could focus completely on the exam and not at all on the computer. That definitely helped the doctor/patient experience. I also noticed that the scribe was trained to turn away when the doctor cued her that private parts were going to be exposed.
Meanwhile, the check-in process reminded me of 1975. I received a clipboard with a set of forms that looked like they had been photocopied a few times. There was a space for my Social Security Number. I left it blank and you should, too, unless you want to open yourself up to identity theft. They asked for my insurance information even though they had photocopied my card, they wanted my pharmacy information in two different places and asked redundant questions about my medical history.
I’ve learned from experience not to bother complaining about the Social Security Number question –better to let them bring it up if they insist- but I did ask if I really had to fill out the pharmacy information multiple times. They said yes: one copy for my medical record and one for some other file they maintain.
These are small annoyances in the scheme of things, but they are noticeable in a customer-service oriented world where websites like Amazon and devices like the iPhone are engineered with the convenience of the consumer in mind.
By David E. Williams of the Health Business Group