Friday, August 9, 2019
Hi tech and low touch bullshitery
Cookie goes to the doctor every 3 to four months. My chronic gut issues and my blood pressure make it so. I love my doctor and his practice. I gladly pay for the visit - they treat us like humans, not billable and co-pays.
That love affair was put to the test last winter, in the height of flu season, when the practice put in a "self-service kiosk" for patients to sign in and pay their deductibles.
I was greeted by a woman who wouldn't let me speak with the receptionist. "They only work with new patients from now on. As an established patient, you will use this kiosk to sign in, and then you will pay your deductible." I was asked, I was directed.
I found it dehumanizing. There I was in a germ-ridden waiting room full of people hacking and coughing and all of us were to use the same touch screen? Yes, the gave us a bottle of hand sanitizer for when we were done, but this was not a hand sanitizer moment* - after using that Petrie dish surface, you should have been able to wash your hands.
The worst part was that after paying with the keypad, the machine asked me if I wanted cash back from my transaction. "No, but a couple lottery cards a diet Pepsi would be nice," I thought. The whole experience made me feel like I was at a Sunoco for a lube job.
The second time it happened, a young woman working at a newly installed stand up desk greeted me not with a "Hello" or a "How can I help you," but with "If you have an appointment, use the kiosk to sign in and pay for your visit."
Can't I go to the receptionist?
"No, the receptionist is for new patients only."
I was so sour on the exchange that when the doctors assistant came at me with a needle to check my A1C, I refused.
"But my Buttercup, why," she asked.
If I can't deal with a real, live person when I check-in, I said, then you can't jab me with that needle.
When Marty, my doctor came in, he asked what was up. "Concepcion is really vexed."
She was vexed, what about me?
He explained that it was the hospital that was doing this and that I would get a survey and to lay it out in the survey. "They don't listen to the doctors - they do listen to the surveys."
So when the survey came, I lowered the boom. I said I was tired of being treated like a second class citizen because I wasn't a "new patient", and that in my last two visits I had not been asked, but ordered to use the machines. I explained that I found it a contradiction to the practice's mission statement.
"Efficiency is no excuse to forget that your patients are human beings, not trained seals. If I wanted to use an ATM, I would go to a bank."
Fast forward a few weeks and yesterday I got a call from the practice administrator.
"Hi Mr. Cookie, this is Rayleen from Dr. Doctor's office and I am calling about your survey responses..."
"...and I wanted to let you know that we have heard from our patients about the self-pay kiosk in the waiting area..."
"...and I am calling to tell you that we have taken several steps that we hope will make your next visit more relaxing..."
"...And you no longer will have to use the kiosks..."
The upshot was that the front office staff, despite the training got the kiosk thing wrong.
"We installed these to see if patients would decide to use them or prefer working with our staff and the staff misunderstood the message that they were supposed to share. We asked them to walk you through a transaction, not force you to use them if you didn't want to."
Rayleen went on to tell me that patients either liked the machine, or hated it, but when they hated it "we heard that very clear. You are not alone. Even my mother read me the riot act."
So I received assurances that the staff was trained again to offer, but not insist. "They should ask you if you want to use the kiosk or wait for the next receptionist after greeting you."
This made things better. Even my husband, a manly man afraid of nothing, said he disliked the machine.
As Rayleen spoke, I could feel my high blood pressure coming down.
"Going to the doctor is stressful - and we don't want to add to that stress. And we have shared your opinions to the hospital management group. The check-in kiosks across the board are being rethought. You are certainly not alone."
When the call ended, I relaxed a bit. I figured I had won, one small pyrrhic victory. We'll see when the next visit comes up.
Now if we can only get them to ditch that fucking robocall confirmation system that calls at the worst possible moment, and the ChartHeart system that demands a second confirmation, because just one doesn't seem good enough.
One fucking automated system at a time, sweet Jesus.
*Even in hospitals, employees are warned that hand sanitizers are only good for three uses in-between hand washings - after that, even the most caustic of them do little to no good.