Paige Doster-Grimes

Reflections and Ramblings from North Carolina

The Little Things


magnifying-glass-9I loathe going to the doctor’s office. I’m proactive about my health, but I’ve often avoided visiting my physician because the whole process tends to be an inconvenient time suck… and I know I’m not the only one. If, like me, you’ve ever experienced one of the following, I feel your pain:

  • Waited more than 2 hours after your scheduled appointment time to see your PCP… in an office that only offers magazines related to parenting and living with diabetes. If you’re going to make me wait, at least soften the blow with some celebrity gossip.
  • Spent an additional fifteen minutes dropping off a prescription because your doctor’s handwriting is so bad that the pharmacist can’t make out the name of the medication… a pharmacist that I’m pretty sure spent an entire semester of pharmacy school dedicated entirely to reading terrible doctor handwriting.
  • Been shown to an exam room, changed into your crunchy paper gown, and been forgotten. 30 minutes later – with your most scandalous body parts barely veiled by a thin layer of compressed tree pulp – you venture into the hallway to flag down a surprised nurse who, indeed, has forgotten to alert the doctor of your whereabouts.
  • Taken time off of work for a procedure that required pre-appointment fasting only to arrive at the doctor’s office and learn that they accidentally double booked the physician and you’ll have to reschedule for another day. You begin to cry openly in the waiting room, as you down a fistful of reception-desk mints, because your plunging blood sugar has made processing your frustration like an adult impossible.

It seems like my medical luck might be changing, though. Recently I had a truly fantastic experience at an oral surgeon’s office. While the surgeon I saw is said to be exceptional, what won me over were the little things about his practice that made my visit much less stressful than it could have been.

  • First, submitting all my paperwork online before the first appointment was incredibly easy.  When I scheduled my visit, they gave me the website to go to and within a couple of minutes I had submitted all my forms online… no need to show up early to my appointment.
  • Next, they sent me a reminder via my preferred method – text message. I could have asked for an email reminder too instead of the standard phone call, but text works best for me so that’s what I got.
  • At my appointment, I got to play DJ. The first question I was asked as I entered the exam room was what kind of music I wanted to listen to. I was a little confused, but then my selection was plugged into Pandora and the relaxing tunes of Kings of Convenience became the soundtrack to my appointment.
  • Finally, they sent me off with typed prescriptions and instructions so there wouldn’t be any question about when to take what, how much to take, how full – or not – my stomach should be at that time… etc., etc.

None of the above are revolutionary ideas. The technology for each has been around for years, yet not nearly enough medical offices are offering them consistently and easily.

After raving to anyone who would listen about what a happy patient I was (it did help that the surgeon was so attentive and helpful), I realized there was a lesson for those of us outside of the medical industry too. What made my experience so great was they took necessary aspects of the customer interaction and either made them easier or customized them to my liking.

So, how can we apply this lesson?

Think about aspects of your work that are unavoidable, repeated with regularity, and involve other stakeholders such as your clients, customers, etc. Come up with as many as you can. Write them down. Your list might contain anything from “Transferring large amounts of data” to “Handing out the bathroom key to patrons who request it” to “Providing reports to clients to update them on their revenue goals”… whatever your job requires that is unavoidable, repeated with regularity, and involves other stakeholders. This criteria just helps to identify processes that will benefit the most from a small but positive change, thus creating the most value for you.

When you’ve got a sizable list, go through it slowly and for each item brainstorm ways to:

  • Make the task easier (for your clients/customers/patrons), or
  • Make the task more personalized (to your client’s/customer’s/patron’s preferences)

Write down any ideas that come to mind – even outlandish, unrealistic or difficult to execute ones or tiny, minor or seemingly simplistic ones. Once you’ve got a lengthy list of possibilities, try picking just one idea that will meet the goals of your organization that is inexpensive (or better yet, free!) and easy to implement… then make it happen!

The point of this exercise isn’t to make every possible change, but rather to identify some opportunities for small change can actually make a big impact. Just think, now that it’s mid-January  a huge number of people who declared grand, sweeping new years resolutions have already fallen off the wagon. While I’m in full support of BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals) there’s something to be said for finding little opportunities for change that don’t feel like much work to implement but actually provide some real value. So why not try it out?

My oral surgeon’s office took the route of small change, and I’ve already referred several friends there because of it… and I haven’t even had my surgery yet.


2 thoughts on “The Little Things

  1. This is a terrific article and so true.

  2. I can’t wait to send you the book “Making Magic”. The lessons in that book reveal that the quest for customer satisfaction is really pretty simple. It involves looking at customer feedback as well as employee input to get the job done efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately many medical offices are operating on the “old” program. I was recently surprised to receive a “How are we doing” questionnaire in the mail from Dartmoth Hitchcock after a recent visit. The most important section of the form was the request for a short essay on “How can we do better”!

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