Just Trying To Keep The Customer Satisfied

The institution that employs me is very bullish on customer satisfaction.  Having come from a fourteen year stint in private practice before I came back into the University fold six years ago, the little things that make a practice run smoothly come naturally to me. Patients are typically seen within a week of the consultation request—same day if they are in an emergency situation.  My front office staff actually answer their phones and my nurses and I return phone calls from patients, even if we have to do it after regular business hours.  The physicist and dosimetrist make sure that the radiation plans are optimal and that each plan undergoes intense scrutiny and quality assurance before the patient ever lies down on the table. The therapy staff work hard to make sure that the patients are treated with dignity and on time, at an hour which is convenient to their schedules. Despite my natural inclination towards dawdling and chatting, I try to keep to my schedule.  At the end of a patient’s treatment course, I personally ask him or her to fill out our patient satisfaction survey because the University bases my staff’s bonuses on the results. So far, I have never been disappointed.

Recently we treated a patient who had some significant physical challenges.  He was extremely overweight, with severe arthritis in his hips and knees.  In order to get to the “vault” to be treated, he had to be wheeled in a wheelchair, which required the coordination of several people since our doors lock for security.  Each day, a therapist would come up the elevator to get the patient, and our receptionist would hold open the door so that it would not close and bang into the wheelchair.  Time changes were made in his schedule to accommodate his other numerous appointments.  His wife partook of our Halloween potluck party and shared tidbits about her day with our front office staff.  His handicapped parking space was never occupied, and he never waited for treatment.  To all outward appearances he and his wife were treated like members of our family.  At the end of his treatment, the results of their patient satisfaction survey were eagerly awaited.  We knew it was going to be spectacular.  And it was.  On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, each question was answered successively with a 5.  Was it easy to get a convenient appointment?  5.   Were you welcomed in a friendly manner? 5. Was the center comfortable and clean?  5.  Did the physician clearly explain the treatment objectives to you?  Again, 5, of course.  And so it went.  Until we came to the “Comments” section at the end.

Dated 11/15/13, the comments were written with perfect penmanship and read as follows:  “We thought your pink wall might be better if it was more of a rust color, to match the chairs and vases.  The color that it is just didn’t seem to go with the room.”

I’ll probably run out and pick up the paint chips at Home Depot this weekend.  We’ll get right on it!

My Doctor Shows

This week is a big week for me: my doctor shows finally return to primetime television!  I have been waiting a long time since the plane crash cliff hanger finale of last season’s “Grey’s Anatomy” for my tv counterparts to return.  Last night I was taken by surprise– just after the first elimination round of “Dancing With the Stars” I had walked outside to answer a friend’s phone call on my cell, when my husband appeared and whispered, “I’m going to bed, but I’m recording the season premier of “Private Practice” for you.”  Needless to say, the phone call ended very quickly, for I have been a doctor show junkie practically since birth, or at least since the handsome Dr.Kildare first picked up a scapel on primetime.

When “Grey’s Anatomy” appeared as a mid season replacement in 2005, I was barraged with phone calls from several of my friends, not physicians, who reported it as a “must see.” I was a bit slow to respond, having missed the first several shows.  When I finally turned it on, I was neither impressed nor amused.  George, one of the interns, was tasked with the unpleasant business of telling his own father that dear old Dad had, as George put it, “The Big C”.  I was indignant.  I called my best friend, who was by then the show’s biggest fan.  I told her emphatically, “THAT WOULD NOT HAPPEN!”  Medical students and interns do not tell their own family members that their worst fears have been realized.  That is a job for a senior resident!  And besides, I harrumphed, “NO ONE CALLS IT THE BIG C ANYMORE!”  I was astounded by the inaccuracy of the medical writing, not to even mention the mispronunciation of medical terms by the befuddled cast.

So how was it, that sometime later, between the third and the fifth season, that I found myself irrevocably sucked in by the story line, not only of “Grey’s Anatomy”, but also its spin-off show “Private Practice”?  I think it was when I finally suspended my own experiences and reality and started to believe in the characters.  Meredith and Derek, Izzy and Alex, and of course, the ever endearing Lexie, aka “Little Grey” were no longer just actors, stumbling over medical words they had never previously had reason to utter.  They were people, who laughed and loved and lived and cried, and died.  When George, the most inept of all the interns, was hit by a bus while shoving a stranger out of the way and maimed beyond recognition, he signaled his identity to his peers by signing 007 (“licensed to kill” as dubbed by his fellow interns) on Lexie’s hand.  I wept for hours.  Really, I did.

When Addison left for Santa Monica and “Private Practice,”  I followed.  “House” may have seen its last season, but that’s okay by me, because Addy and Jake are finally going to be happy.  Why do I love these shows so much?  I will tell you why.  When I see these beautiful young women and men, dressed to the nines in their form fitting clothes, sporting sparkling make up and very good hair, and better shoes, having even better sex, I can pretend, just for a moment, that that’s the way it really truly was. It is a very good fantasy indeed.