“Years ago I once had a patient send me a bill for her time as I was running 90-minutes late. That’s the day I thought long and hard about my schedule and made some leadership-changes and shifts in my practice and told myself, ‘Never again.’ Honestly, I was more ashamed than angry. She was right. I had disrespected her time. I valued my time as more important than hers and it was a chronic condition.” ~Internal Medicine Physician, California
By Michael Tetreault, Editor-in-Chief
The two dreaded words of each Physician’s day.
You never quite know when it’s going to start but you dread the moment each day that the pattern starts.
It’s a complex race to the finish. It’s stressful on you, your staff and creates unnecessary tension and friction between you and the Patient.
Unknowingly, it creates a gap between you and the Patient even though you’re doing your best.
Number 18 on the Capella Canon we mentioned above is, “The suggested hours of operation are guidelines, not limitations for satisfying individual guest desires and preference.”
In other words, if you walk into the exam room 45 minutes after you were supposed to, there’s not a lot of grace. But, there’s no reason not to address the elephant in the room [eg. you’re late] and not apologize for being late. Welcome the Patient by their first name vs. just plowing through the awkward lateness and don’t seem like you’re in a hurry to get to the point.
No one likes that.
So how late or how behind is too late?
A study done at San Francisco State University found that about 20% of the U.S. population is chronically late–but it’s not because they don’t value others’ time. [But] It’s more complicated than that, says lead researcher Diana DeLonzor.
“Repetitive lateness is more often related to personality characteristics such as anxiety or a penchant for thrill-seeking,” she says. “Some people are drawn to the adrenaline rush of that last-minute sprint to the finish line, while others receive an ego boost from over-scheduling and filling each moment with activity.”
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Let’s circle back to practical application in your medical practice, shall we?
Beloved author Charles Dickens once said, “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”
DeLonzor says that 45% of everything we do on a daily basis is automatic: “Our lives are filled with habits–from the way you brush teeth to how you get dressed and leave for work,” she says, adding that they’re necessary. “If we didn’t do things automatically, it would take us forever to get through our day.”
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The habits of people who are always on time are highly structured. They analyze their daily activities, set routines, and stick to them on regular basis. Chronically late people, however, don’t have structure and often fall on the attention deficit disorder spectrum, says DeLonzor.
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“Instead of thinking about why their routines don’t work and trying something different next time, chronically late people simply hope that tomorrow will be better,” she says.
To become punctual, DeLonzor suggests putting more routines and structure into your life. For example, do everything you can to prepare for the morning the night before.
FOR PATIENTS, according to Esquire Magazine,
You are always encouraged to show up fifteen minutes before your appointment time, so that you can take that filthy clipboard with the Lyrica-logo pen attached and fill out a million forms. But, especially while you’re young and your medical issues are relatively few, it turns out you can do that pretty quickly. Then you’re stuck on a leather couch watching House Hunters International until fifteen minutes after your appointment time. Nuts to that. You can push it a little bit here. Time spent in a doctor’s office is time spent contemplating your mortality, and it behooves you to minimize it.
THE RIGHT TIME IS FIVE MINUTES BEFORE THE SCHEDULED TIME, JUST IN CASE THERE’S SOME WEIRD ISSUE WITH YOUR INSURANCE.
“We must not be distracted from the four supreme objectives of any organization that wants to succeed: 1. Keep the customer. 2. Get new customers. 3. Encourage the customers to spend as much as possible!—but without sabotaging Objective Number One. 4. In all of the above, keep working toward more and more efficiency.”― Horst Schulze, Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise
I love that quote from Horst Schulze because it’s circular.
We’ll conclude with this final thought from a Physician on this topic where she says “Years ago I once had a patient send me a bill for her time as I was running 90-minutes late. That’s the day I thought long and hard about my schedule and made some leadership-changes and shifts in my practice and told myself, ‘Never again.’ Honestly, I was more ashamed than angry. She was right. I had disrespected her time. I valued my time as more important than hers and it was a chronic condition. As I said earlier, I’m occasionally late when I walk into the exam room. Sometimes a true emergency happens, or an outlier event transpires. When it does happens, I try to give a very detailed account of why I was late to every Patient for the rest of the day, apologize profusely, asking forgiveness … which by the way, not many Doctors do and that’s the key ingredient to the process. Without it, you just piss people off. I then make sure the other person knows I’m sorry and that I take their time very seriously, and assure them it won’t happen again.”
Timeliness is a repetitive rhythm we can all follow and work on day to day.
Remember, the goal isn’t perfection. The goal is progress.
The Etiquette Rules of Being on Time
So now it’s your turn to sound off: What other missed opportunities exist for you to connect with your family, staff and Patients? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org