If a Doctor's Office Were Like Dining Out

“Hi! Good morning. Welcome to Dr. Smith's office. Do you have an appointment today?”

Imagine for a moment that the experience of going to the doctor's office were far more relaxed and enjoyable, despite obviously the physical discomfort that drove you there. It could even feel pampering, like you're the valued customer, and the staff is there to serve you. What might it be like? A restaurant analogy might work!

"Hi there, I have a 3pm appointment, I'm a few minutes early."

"Not a problem, how about I take your coat and show you to the room. Jackie will be your nurse today and Dr. Smith is your doctor. Jackie will be in soon with some water and the menu."

Upon walking in, you get welcomed by a cheerful and sympathetic greeter. The person takes your coat, walks you to the room, and introduces the staff that will be caring for you. No waiting at a counter, no piles of paperwork, and no waiting room. Then, the nurse enters.

"Hi, I'm Jackie, I see you found us ok. I brought you a glass of still water, would you prefer sparkling? Here is the menu for our office, this takes into consideration what we know of your condition and why you booked the appointment along with your insurance company's coverage. I'll mention that we do have a special today that is not on the menu. I recommend it! It is our seasonal flu shot, this year's is especially effective, it is covering 95% of flu cases we see. It is fully covered by your insurance, which makes it a no brainer. I will be back in to take your vitals and weight, and the doctor should be in shortly to answer your questions on the menu and discuss your order."

Rather than awkwardly waiting in a cold room, you're greeted promptly by the nurse, provided with a glass of water and shown a menu of services that are appropriate and available, along with their price tags. No surprises here. You have choice, information, and freedom.

Then the doctor comes in: "Hi, I'm Dr. Smith, thanks for joining us today. Although I hear you're having some unpleasant symptoms, and for that I'm terribly sorry. Let's try to get you fixed up and out of here in better shape. Before we start with my examination, I want to answer any questions you have on the menu. If there are none at this time, let's take a look at you and then we can talk through which menu items I recommend."

Rather than making choices for you without any consideration of cost or coverage, the doctor discusses options, presents the patient with pricing, and shares the pros and cons of each choice. Does this diminish the doctor's education and expertise? Not at all. It is merely altering the tone and dynamic, the doctor shifts from paternal supervisor to sage council. Serving as the guide for the family as they embark on a segment of their healthcare journey.

As you make your choices and wrap up your appointment, the doctor says, "Thank you so much for coming in. We always enjoy serving you. If there is anything we can do to improve your experience in the future please let us know. In the meantime, Jackie will bring your bill and your coats. Best of luck with the medications and treatment plan, I will look forward to hearing how it goes."

Reinventing the healthcare system is hard as hell if we're starting from scratch. Luckily, we have great analogies from other industries on how to combine exceptional customer experiences with transparent pricing and accountable service. It is not impossible, starts with a shift in perspective.