How you feel when you interact with your healthcare provider or their office staff sets the tone for not only your relationship with your doctor but also your level of care. You hear about patient experience, but what does it mean? Most specifically, what does it mean to you?

The short answer is, it’s the experience that begins the first time you contact the office and continues through appointments, procedures, scheduling, and billing. It is what shapes your perception of a healthcare provider or clinic. It is what sets the tone for how you manage your health.

At some practices, things don’t go so smoothly though. Some things are a major hassle. These 5 biggest hassles at the doctor’s office are common in many clinics. That doesn’t mean you have to accept them though. Here’s what they are and how to get better.

It’s just a big mess.

The lobby and exam rooms are disheveled and uncomfortable while the website is almost non-functional. It is so frustrating to go to a doctor’s website and not being able to find what you want or walking into the office and feeling uncomfortable because it is unkempt. Things happen, sure, but if the clinic isn’t at least trying to make some changes, that can be a problem.

It can be a huge strain on you as well. It is hard to relax amid clutter or if you feel that an area is not clean.

How to get better – Discretely and respectfully talk to the office manager about your concerns. The pandemic has brought such a focus on cleanliness and sanitation, so asking about it is not out of line. You can also ask if they have plans to upgrade the website (if that is an issue for you). Ultimately though, if they aren’t considering any changes you need to decide if this is a deal-breaker. If it is, find another doctor.

You feel ignored and disrespected.

You don’t expect the staff to fawn over you, of course, but there are certain things that the doctors and staff should be doing to provide basic customer service. These things should be evident at every touchpoint of your visit. When you arrive, you should be greeted cheerfully. They should be professional and friendly.

If you walk in and no one behind the desk greets you or acknowledges you because they are having a personal conversation, that can be a problem. Now, if you walk up and no one sees you at first, that is a little different, but if you are purposely ignored or treated with disrespect, that is unacceptable.

How to get better – Pay attention to the doctor when you are seeing him or her. If they treat you with the same disregard as their staff, you might need to find another doctor. If they don’t act that way, then it’s a front desk issue. Write a letter to the practice manager and cc the doctor describing specific incidents with the day and time. Be as detailed as possible and always be polite and professional.

Communication leaves something to be desired.

When you call the office to schedule an appointment, discuss billing, or ask a question it takes a long time for someone to answer, or you are always put on hold and just sit. Sometimes the call even gets disconnected. When they do answer or when you walk in for your appointment, the staff doesn’t greet you, they seem bored and don’t even look at you, and they aren’t the least bit interested in answering your questions.

You sort of get the feeling that you are bothering them by showing up for your appointment. That’s not a good feeling.

How to get better – Calling to ask a question, schedule an appointment, or discuss billing should not be a lengthy ordeal. The staff should answer the phone promptly and have a friendly, cheerful manner. The same goes for the rest of the staff, including the doctor. The overall culture should be patient-oriented meaning they are helpful, do their best to answer your questions, and introduce themselves to you. They should smile, make eye contact, and most of all listen to you.

This is how we do things at Sandstone but if you aren’t getting it at your doctor’s office, talk to your doctor about it. But know that often if the staff acts a certain way, the doctor may as well. So you may not be getting appropriate treatment at any point of your visit. If so, then it’s time to move on. Come see what a difference patient commitment makes at Sandstone.

Access features are clunky and inefficient.

Appointment scheduling is a nightmare. Your doctor seems to always be overbooked and there are chunks during the day that you can’t reach anyone. When you arrive for your appointment, even when you are on time, you have to wait and wait and wait to be seen. Appointments are set only to be changed – and it happens very frequently. There are a lot of mistakes and appointment mishaps that make it difficult to get in to see your doctor.

How to get better – Most doctors are using technology to handle their scheduling, but there’s still a human component behind it. If they aren’t doing what they are supposed to do it won’t work. If you find that your appointments are repeatedly mishandled, canceled, or changed, you should talk to the practice manager. Explain the problem with scheduling or lengthy lobby waits, or whatever the problem is.

Approach it from the standpoint of seeking help to improve your patient experience, not pointing a finger at how incompetent the staff is. Work with the practice manager to find a solution that works for you.

They have no concept of time.

It takes someone forever to answer the phone. You are put on hold for very long wait times and often feel that you’ve been forgotten. In the lobby you wait so long you start to wonder if your appointment hasn’t been skipped or missed. It almost seems like no one there even owns a watch.

Patient flow can be a real problem.

How to get better – This is another conversation to have with the practice manager, but you may also want to talk to your doctor. Many people schedule their doctor’s appointments around work or school, around picking up the kids, or other commitments. When they are left to wait in the lobby or an exam room for a long time it can throw off everything.

For most people, that’s a problem. If it is for you, speak up. Do it professionally and with kindness but let them know that you cannot do the lengthy waits. If it is just part of that office culture though, you will probably need to find a new doctor.

At Sandstone we care about your patient journey and want you to have the most positive experience possible. We appreciate you and thank you for choosing us to handle your family’s healthcare needs. If there’s any way we can make your patient experience better, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Thank you for being a part of the Sandstone family!