Sunday, March 28, 2021

Should Doctors Pay Patients When We Are Late?

Some time ago, I flew with my youngest kid, then a high school senior, on a college visit.  He’s the last of 5 youngsters, so I’ve had my share of these visits to various centers of knowledge where young minds are molded to face uncertain and unknown futures.   While I’ve never found these visits to be substantively valuable, they were of great value to me as it was fun to be with them on these exciting excursions.

The Hallowed Halls of Higher Learning

The formats of the school presentations are superimposable.  There’s an information session, which serves as an infomercial that tries to draw students to apply.  Schools favor receiving large volumes of applicants so that their acceptance rate will be lower and they will appear to more selective than they actually are.   How cynical of me to suggest that there are forces in academia that might be pursuing a self-serving agenda!

These sessions are led by effervescent young cheerleaders who present a power point of smiling students who are having fun, doing world class research and shaking hands with world leaders.  Parents are reassured that the only criminal activity within the past 5 years in this urban campus was pick-pocketing. 

Afterwards, prospective students proceed on a tour where they are given critical data they will need when making their ultimate education decision.

“Here’s the cafeteria.”
“Here’s the chem building.”
“Here’s where we play Frisbee.”

In case any of my kids read this post, which is as likely as any of them admitting to being a Republican, I want them to know that I loved every minute of these visits with them. 

When my last kid and I flew on a college visit, we enjoyed the joy and relaxation of air travel, a subject that has crept onto this blog previously.   Was there a flight delay?  Ok, stop laughing now.   I asked my son if he felt that airlines should provide some form of compensation for delays of certain specified time intervals.  For example, if a flight is delayed 30 minutes, possible remedies might include:
  • 2 bags of honey roasted peanuts
  • Handshake with the pilot
  • Special 1-800 customer service phone number which states on the record that ‘your call is important to us…”
  • Guaranteed middle seat so you can enjoy a lively conversation with 2 happy travelers.
  • Travel voucher for $30 (one dollar per minute of delay) that may be used for any First Class non-refundable ticket that is booked within 36 hours of your plane landing at your destination.
My son did not think that the airlines would endorse the concept that travel delays were compensable.
For a generation or two, patients have lamented that their doctors keep them waiting habitually.  How many times can our staff explain to them that we were saving 7 folks’ lives simultaneously?  What is our patients’ time worth?  Aren’t they often missing work or making special arrangements to see us?  Even if they are retired and have open schedules, doesn’t their time have value?

Should physicians compensate patients when their appointments are delayed?  If so, what remedy would you suggest from a gastroenterologist?
  • Extra lube on the next colonoscopy?
  • Buy One-Get-One-Free hemorrhoid cream?
  • Waiting room magazines that were published sometime in the past decade?
Seriously, do we doctors owe you something when we keep you waiting?
Don’t be too harsh here.  We should also address how you should compensate us when you are late or don’t even show up.  I beseech you to be ‘fair and balanced’, a cable news network’s motto that all of you should know well. 

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