When in the grips of the healthcare system it’s great to be treated by someone personable: the difference it makes to the success of the consultation and the chance of building a good relationship can’t be underestimated. As such I quite enjoyed my cardiology appointment just before Christmas although the consultation itself is not what I remember most.
The consulting room was next to a physiotherapy unit, buried in the middle of a rheumatology outpatient department, without a reception or formal signage and identifiable only by a handwritten doctor’s name taped to one door in the middle of a line of four. I couldn’t tell what the eleven other people sitting in the narrow corridor were queuing for so as my appointment time drew nearer I asked those nearest the door if they were waiting for cardiology. After seeing a suited chap come out of the room and wander about a bit before going back in, I thought it best to pop my head round the door and introduce myself. A warm welcome, a quick scrabble in my notes after his healthcare assistant fetched them and we were good to go.
The consultation was at a good pace, contained clear descriptions and plenty of chances to ask questions although having the healthcare assistant come back into the room to have an ECG form re-done for a patient who claims she was never given one but “well I know I gave it to her so she must of lost it” when I’m topless was a little disappointing: no embarrassment on my part (at least now my chest hair has grown back) but for other patients this may have been less amusing.
Fifteen minutes later we’re all done and summarising the treatment options, one of which will be agreed after I return to outpatients for a repeat ECG. A thank-you, a handshake and I’m back into the strip-lit corridor and after two attempts I find the right way out and head back to work.
I’ve mentioned before that until you’re a real patient it’s not possible to walk the pathway: you know and assume too much on the things that matter to patients and I suspect it’s the same at this hospital. I’m sure staff know that the location of this clinic could be improved if not just the signage, but maybe it’s assumed there’s no space elsewhere or there’s no funding available. I hope the healthcare assistant knows about privacy and dignity but assumed that as I was younger I either wouldn’t mind or wouldn’t taking off my clothes.
Who knows. What I do know is that what I remember most is the overall front-of-house experience, and how little things could have made a big difference – not just to me but to all the other patients waiting. How many of us can confidently say we ask the questions that challenge the status-quo in an attempt to improve the patient experience – and how many of us will agree to do that just once this month to see what happens?