Many of my colleagues will think I am crazy for doing this but here goes….
I feel this note is so overdue. Thankfully, a few well-timed snow days and a couple of uncensored patient remarks have forced me to sit down and say what I have should have said weeks ago.
First, thank you.
Thank you all for giving us the privilege of being your doctors for the last decade. I feel downright honored that so many of you have chosen my practice. It is because of your confidence in me and the referrals of your friends and family that we have experienced the unprecedented growth we have.
In the last eighteen months I have hired two physicians and have purchased, built and moved into a beautiful, bright, ergonomically designed office space (ok, I admit “ergonomically” is probably not the right word.) I have hung awards on my walls and filed away countless notes of thanks.
And yet, today, my stomach hurts.
Because I have started to hear that you are not happy. It seems that the growth I am so proud of has become somewhat unsustainable. We have been letting you down. I have heard that it is hard to get through on the phones because of a busy signal. I have heard that there are no available sick appointments and that it takes too long to get results. I have heard that receptionists can be gruff, refills are delayed, and email responses take too long. This winter I found myself excusing complaints as the ranting of frustrated patients suffering from the winter blues. But it is much more than that. Many of the criticisms are valid.
Here is my side.
First, I am sorry…for all of it. I get to reap the rewards of the plaques, accolades, and notes. Therefore I must also accept the responsibility of the negative. All of my staff (receptionists, billing, nursing, Dr. T, Dr. M , and Amy) are a direct reflection of me. So, when they let you down, I have let you down. Second, I am a fixer. It is in my nature. I hear of a problem and, as long as it doesn’t involve a drill, hammer or a vacuum cleaner, I fix it. So here is what I have come up with.
1. There is not a series of small brush fires that need to be put it out, there is a bigger problem with our infrastructure. We have grown faster than we are able to correct for. My gruff staff is so because they are working really hard. And more times than not, they get yelled at (usually by me) for not pleasing a patient or giving the wrong answer. They need help and they are going to get it. I am sorry that I pulled my five receptionists aside for my own rant yesterday. I should be thanking them and helping them to do better. My next note will be to them.
2. Our phones are always busy because we have the same 22 phones we bought when we opened the doors ten years ago. We are at a point where masking tape and sharpies are not the solution. So as of this very minute we are researching a new Voice Over Internet system with expanded lines and features so no patient ever has to get a busy signal.
3. There are not enough sick appointments because ….well literally because there are not enough hours in my day. So, effective this coming week, I am adding two hours every week to my schedule. Instead of starting at 3:30 on Tuesdays, I will start at 1:30. This will allow me to see at least 8 more patients every week.
Yes, I feel that I work hard and I hate to get negative feedback. But, my job is a privilege I will not take for granted. We have grown to the point where our growth is sometimes in our way. Talk about first world problems!
Please do me two favors.
1. (gulping as I say this) Please keep the feedback coming. Try to be gentle about it because I am fragile right now. But I can’t correct what I don’t know about. I got my big girl pants on. Go ahead. Let me hear it. I intentionally put my cell number and my email on my card. Use them. I may not answer right away if I am off (I need to keep balance at home too) but I will answer.
2. Please be patient. The steps above WILL happen and are already in the works, but will take a little time. Please hang in there with me.
We have not gotten “too big,” “too impersonal” or “all about the money.” We are just human.
And isn’t that what brought you to me in the first place?