Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Call Me Back When.....

I was reading our neighborhood tabloid the other day and I was struck by one of the advertisements: it was for a doctor's practice. There was his photo, a distinguished looking gentleman, and the ad, like every other doc's ad, listed his virtues. I wish I could find it so I could put a direct quote. I called a neighbor to ask if he had the paper and he suggested I look on-line, to which I replied, "I want one of the ads for a blog post." Funny, my neighbor hung up quickly. I contemplated rummaging through our re-cycling, already outside, in the dark, if it's still there it's soaked no doubt-- Anything for the Blog. Instead, I'll wing it.

So the doc's ad began with the bullet-point claim that he Returns Phone Calls Promptly. Gray hair, years of practice, and that's the first thing he wants to proclaim about his professional persona. The second bullet point contends that he offers Same Day Appointments. After those two sales points, he goes on to mention that he has 25 years of experience and an impressive list of educational and academic appointments. His picture reveals that he sports a friendly smile.

It seems like a funny statement that a distinguished doc is advertising that he returns his phone calls and offers Same Day appointments, as if this is a bonus. Shouldn't everyone return their calls or at least have them screened, prioritized, dealt with in some way, even if simply to have a nurse say "That sounds important, why don't you come in to see the doctor?" And same day appointments: Pediatricians see kids the same day, why is it so hard to find an adult doc who does the same. Why are these things Bonuses? And if you're wondering why such a doc needs to advertise, your guess is as good as mine, but the ad said nothing about insurance participation and I'd bet he's running a concierge, fee-for-service practice.

I suppose we've had this discussion in a variety of ways on Shrink Rap already-- we've talked about emergency
call-back policies, and this past weekend I commented that I get annoyed with friends who don't return my calls in Sunday Morning: Coffee & The New York Times . Actually, it's worse than that-- I really don't maintain close friendships with people who don't return my calls; most of my friends are conscientious people who get back to me promptly. And they are all very busy people.

What about professionally? What's reasonable in terms of having a doc return a non-emergent call? For me, I return almost every call the same day, only rarely the next day. I may wait until Sunday night or Monday for a weekend call that is clearly not urgent, say an appointment to be rescheduled, as I assume no one expects such things to be dealt with on a Saturday. Honestly, though, it's not about great patient care, it's not so I stick it as a bullet-point as an ad, it's not because I'm so devoted. Simply put, I return calls promptly because I like to keep my mental To-Do List as clear as possible, it's about not having this nagging thing to remember in the back of my brain.

But it's nice to know that if I ever do need a brownie point on my shrink score-card, this one's a shoe-in.