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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, September 14, 2018
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Patient patients


One of the most difficult things to for parents of young children or children of aging parents here in Bacolod is seeing a doctor when a ward is sick and they have no yaya or driver.

If the appointment with the doctor is at one of those buildings that are near hospitals, the first challenge would be parking. Because not all of us have chauffeurs and/or caregivers who can enjoy the luxury of being dropped off at the entrance and assisted to the clinics of their respective physicians, it would be nice if the parking lot were nearby and generally accessible.

However, most hospitals reserve their closest and most convenient parking lots for doctors instead of patients so those of us who don’t have help need to park someplace far away and then walk all the way back to the clinics, in rain or shine, with our patients who could be feeling ill. They may not be ill enough to be taken straight to the emergency room or admitted to the hospital but that long walk is definitely not convenient for those who are not exactly in the pink of health.

This management decision to give doctors more consideration over patients when it comes to parking is understandable because they work there every day so they should be afforded parking spaces that aren’t too inconvenient for them. However, these doctors are generally healthy people who shouldn’t mind a few hundred steps extra a day that should be good for their health but the people who need to see doctors most likely don’t feel so well. Yet when the people who have to park further and walk more, without shade from the sun or rain, are the patients, it is easy to get an idea where those priorities lie.

If parking is available and the walk isn’t too far or inconvenient, the next challenge would be waiting for the doctor. There is a mishmash of systems for appointments and queues but for regular folk who don’t have inside connections, the long wait times usually mean they have to reserve half a day if they plan to see a doctor. Making patients wait 30 minutes or even an hour some of the time is forgivable but when people wait hours just to see a doctor, it is absolutely disrespectful of their time. There has to be a better way to do this in this day and age.

The trouble with excellent doctors is that when they become popular, the queue to see them becomes very long. Patients need to be on good terms with the receptionist if they want to be given special treatment or allowed to bypass the line. This wheeling and dealing is the primary reason why wait times become even longer for the unwashed masses or unconnected. A doctor that wants to provide the best service to patients should invest in a system that can minimize wait times and the inconvenience that goes with it. There are so many tools out there, like apps available on smartphones or tablets, that can be adapted to fit the needs of clinics but it doesn’t seem to be a priority for doctors and their receptionists who still manage patients the same way it has been done for decades.

There was a time I was trying to make an appointment for my daughter and the doctor had this rule that they didn’t give numbers or make appointments over the phone. I had to go there myself or send someone over to line up first come first served in order to get a number/appointment for later that day. One doesn’t have to live 14km away from the clinic to be annoyed by such a rule, especially during these days when smartphones and messengers make it easy to cancel or confirm appointments. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the doctor didn’t want patients. But because there weren’t a lot of doctors in that particular field of specialization, we had no choice but to abide by their ancient rules.

If they are not interested in innovations that can make the visit to the doctor more convenient, our only hope is in waiting for more doctors to come in so we have more choices and that might force them to compete, not only in terms of specialization, knowledge and competency, but also when it comes to providing better customer experiences.

If it takes patience to be a patient, it requires even more patience for those who have to take care of patients. Parents of small children and children of aging parents who accompany their wards to see the doctor need to hire drivers and yayas if they don’t want to waste so much time waiting. If not, then we have to take them there ourselves, find parking, walk them to the clinic, and start the long wait. If we are lucky, the health issue goes away but the unlucky ones will have to come back for a follow up and that will mean another half day wasted on mostly waiting.

The doctors that do well usually keep themselves updated on developments in their chosen field of specialization. If they could spend a little time figuring out how to use technology to make it more convenient and efficient when patients visit their clinics, they could probably do even better.*  

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