Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Pers: customer service in hospitals

I had an episode in a hospital - Prince of Wales, Randwick - a few days ago. Fortunately, just a kidney stone, so it wasn’t chronic, systemic, or lengthy. Just an isolated incident, there and gone.

I was put under the care of a specialist, a professor – but I never saw him. A Korean-looking underling (registrar?) was the one I saw, and his manner was… terse. He asked me questions and gave me the bare bones of information.

I saw a parade of people in and out of my emergency room: I had no idea what most of them were doing there. Of course, I was in considerable pain at the time, and all I wanted was a diagnosis and for the pain to ease. It did, after a few hours and quite a number of painkillers. No whooziness afterwards, so they must have given me just the right amount of drugs.

I did say to one of them: “I’d like to know who the people are, and what part they are playing in this situation”. But it was too much for me to keep asking.

On the one hand, it would possibly be a hindrance to stop and explain to the patient what was going on, beyond the basics. Besides, there may be a limit to what information I can absorb while coping with the pain.

On the other hand, quite a number of people popped in and out. A little disconcerting to an orderly mind. Beyond a certain point, hospitals are probably not very concerned with keeping patients – their customers – in the loop. Although my industry - Information Technology – has largely adopted a customer service philosophy, hospitals are not all the way there. Yet nor are we: shocking customer service is a daily occurrence in some IT departments.

I never found out why my acute pain began in an unrelated area. Yet I can’t say the hospital service was shocking at all. They did (eventually) provide pain relief and diagnosis. I can't really complain about treatment; it was efficient. And perhaps most patients only want to be told the basics.

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