I am a consumer of health care in the US. I am also a restaurant owner. I am often so stunned at what passes as acceptable behavior in our health care system, I can’t help but compare it to service in the food industry.
If restaurants ran like health care in the US, here’s what would happen:
Step 1. You call to make a reservation. After listening to 10 different options, you choose “make a reservation” and are told to leave a message
Step 2. You receive a call back from someone, who is unable to make a reservation. They transfer you to someone else, who is also unable to make a reservation. This person transfers you to a 3rd person, who is actually able to make the reservation but is not available. You leave message for the person able to make the actual reservation.
Step 3. You wait a day to hear back. Nothing.
Step 4. You call again, leaving a message for the person able to make the reservation. You finally hear from them by the end of the day. They offer a reservation in a month, which you accept because you have no other alternative.
Step 5. You show up at the correct time for your reservation, provide ID and credit card, and wait an hour.
Step 6. After an hour, you are taken to your table, given water and menus, then forced to wait another 30 minutes.
Step 7. Finally you meet your server, who takes your order. You are then told there is no way to determine how long it will take or how much it will cost.
Step 8. A half hour later your server comes back and tells you you have to order something else because your credit card will not pay for the item you requested. You order something else, again having no idea how much it will cost or how long it will take.
Step 9. Wait. Hours, days, weeks. You finally get what you’ve ordered, but find out you have to place an additional order to actually consume it. Again, no time frame or cost is given. You place this additional order.
Step 10. You wait. At some point, an unknown person comes to your table and asks if you are ok, do you need anything? You say “yes, I need my food”. This lovely person says “let me see what I can do”, disappears into the kitchen, and you never see or hear from her again.
Step 11. You are finally given your food, and told you have 5 minutes to eat it. It is very unsatisfying.
Step 12. You are given an outrageous bill and told to leave.
Step 13. You are sent a survey asking for a review of the services you have received. In a fit of outrage, you burn it.
Step 14. You stop eating out.
This is what we face when we have to deal with our health care system. Somewhere, somehow, our health care system seems to have forgotten that they are supposed to be caring for people; they are in the customer service business. They have come to see their patients as a burden, an inconvenience, an interruption in what they believe should be a pleasant day. While businesses in our country remind employees “the customer comes 1st”, the health care system does the opposite. They seem to think they, the provider of services, come before their customer. Not only do they call us patients, they consistently try our patience, yet remain convinced they are the sufferers.
Once a patient, you are no longer a person. Try to stay healthy!
PS: There are some health care facilities that are not like this. If you are not getting good customer service, look elsewhere. Don’t settle for frozen burgers when you can get steak.