Medical field needs a makeover

I experienced the joy of a doctor’s waiting room this past week. After waiting 29 minutes, I asked the staff behind the glass what was up. With striking disdain and apathy, a grim woman told me, “The doctor is running behind.” No kidding.

At 43 minutes into the adventure, I asked again. With ice in her veins, another scrubs-wearing angry woman suggested I reschedule if I didn’t want to wait.

Since I had time on my hands, it got me thinking. Why is the industry norm in medical offices to treat patients rudely and routinely make them wait? As a customer of a medical practice, why am I expected to block out loads of extra time to accommodate for inconsiderate, disrespectful service? If this happened when buying a car, you’d find a new dealer. If a restaurant ignored your reservation time, you’d split.

Despite advances in drug therapies and medical devices, the typical local doctor’s office is still running behind. Not just in time, but in a willingness to reimage their profession. To obsess with delighting customers. To shatter conventional wisdom and stand out from the pack. To explore new models. To give a shit.

Think what someone could do with a blank slate. What about borrowing ideas from great customer experiences such as luxury hotels or top-notch restaurants? What about signs that are motivating or even funny instead of embossed with rules about payment methods? What if the waiting room was inspiring instead of dingy and made the act of waiting pleasurable instead of a chore?

If you set a timer for 10 minutes with the goal of brainstorming as many fresh ideas for a doctor’s office as possible, you’d end up with four pages of opportunities to shake things up. And yet… I sit and wait.

The medical field, like most other industries, is in the midst of massive upheaval. Therein lies your opportunity. No matter how backwards your industry is; no matter how “stuck” you feel; no matter how much you think things “have to” be done a certain way….you have the power to innovate.

It’s time to stop accepting things as they are and start imagining things as they could be. Creative approaches will eventually transform your industry. The only question is: will you be the driving force of this change and enjoy the rewards, or will you keep clinging to the past only to play catch-up later on?

When the doctor finally saw me – 77 minutes after my scheduled appointment time – I shared some ideas on the need for disruption (I believe I was more amused by this than she). Not sure if she’ll become liberated from the dogma of her field, but we can all learn, grow, and win by refusing to accept standard operating procedures and instead, imagine the possibilities.

Are you running behind? If so, it’s time to start catching up.

Josh Linkner is a Detroit-based entrepreneur, author, consultant and investor who was the keynote speaker at the BizExpo in Milwaukee 2010. His blog is republished by BizTimes with permission by the author.

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