The DMV and the Patient Experience: Too Closely Related?

I had the pleasure of having both my driver’s license and my vehicle tags come up for renewal the same month, warranting a trip to my local DMV. I found myself dreading the experience and frankly, putting it off until the end of the month; the long wait, taking off from work in the middle of the day because of the less-than-convenient hours, the threat of poor customer service and the cumbersome paperwork all loomed like a heavy cloud over my head as I mentally prepared to walk through those fingerprint smudged doors in severe need of a cleaning.

Once inside, I found that my feelings of dread were justified. I experienced the dirty environment, the long line, waiting for over an hour just to be late for my afternoon meeting, less-than-friendly staff, upset patrons and a sign that topped it all off: “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone Because of Irrational or Threatening Behavior”. Certainly dealing with the public is difficult and many difficult, irrational people cross through the stalls of the DMV each day. However, as I stood in line watching the minutes tick by with little movement and no acknowledgement or helpfulness from the staff, I can understand how someone may be driven to irrational behavior in that setting.

As I reflect back on my experience as a customer of the State of Missouri, I realized that my experience was far too closely related to that which many patients experience everyday! Some of the biggest complaints we hear out of our mystery shoppers and read on patient satisfaction surveys are related to the long waits, inconvenient hours of the office and the generally uninspiring staff greeting patients. And that sign? Unfortunately I have personally seen, along with read numerous secret shopper reports, very similar signage in doctors’ offices; “If you’ve been waiting longer than 20 minutes, please see the front desk.” Nothing says, “We not paying attention to you” better than a sign with that verbiage pasted on the sliding glass window that the receptionists viciously slam to end conversations and properly return the barrier between “us and them” to it’s place.

Sadly, the above scenario is all-to-commonplace in today’s medical office. When you break down those two experiences and put them into context, the experience for customers at the DMV and patients in a physicians’ office too often resemble each other. While we unfortunately do not have other options or competition for renewing our drivers’ licenses or vehicle tags, patients do have options when choosing their healthcare providers. Healthcare consumerism is continuing to grow as the industry changes and patients are in search of a better healthcare experience. Your patients have options; does your practice put it’s focus on your patients, welcoming them and providing an exceptional experience? Or, does your office too closely resemble the patient experience of patrons of the DMV, uninspiring, inconvenient and downright painful?

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