Here is the first in a series of my expose: Ridiculous Moments in Health Care. It is inspired by a giggle session that I had with Isabel Jordan, family leader and founder of the Rare Disease Foundation.
Isabel and I had just met, and were in a downtown coffee shop, swapping stories about health care. This included tales about hospitals using fax machines IN THE YEAR 2015, notoriously cranky receptionists in clinics, adventures sitting in waiting rooms with small wiggly children for four hours, and the hoops we have to jump through just to get access to our children’s own health information. There was really nothing we could do but dissolve into giggles over our lattes.
Last week, I was sitting in a walk-in clinic (no, I haven’t found a regular family physician in BC) because I strongly suspected I had strep throat (and I do). I was given a deli counter number by the receptionist at the front desk. He excelled at using as few words as possible to interact with patients, like this:
Me: ‘Um, I’ve never been here before.’
Receptionist: ‘Fill out this form.’
Me: Fills out form and brings it back.
Receptionist: (Nothing). Hands me my deli counter number.
I sat for 1.5 hours, which maybe isn’t that bad (?). I mostly stared at my deli counter number, which was 70. After the number 69 was called, I looked up in anticipation.
Receptionist (not looking up or standing up or gesturing): ’70. Room 4.’
I was 70. I was to go to Room 4. I got up and staggered unaccompanied to Room 4. I wasn’t sure whether to keep the door open or get undressed or where to sit or what. So I just sat on the treatment bed thing and waited for the doctor. He came in a few minutes later, swabbed my throat, and I was on my way about 3 minutes later to the pharmacy with a prescription clutched in my hand.
Now, being called ’70’ is a new thing for me. Was this approach indicative of the strive towards efficiency? In calling me ’70’ instead of ‘Sue Robins’ the staff member did save about 0.3 seconds of time. By not standing up and accompanying me to the treatment room, I’d say he saved about 15 seconds. Ah, but how this efficiency trumped empathy. This staff member managed to trim down his number of words used in our interaction to a grand total of 8 words.
I do not know how to even begin to start analyzing this from a patient-centred point of view, so I’ll just let this sad little tale stand alone.
’70. Room 4.’ Another great tale of Ridiculous Moments in Health Care.